Film " The New Breed" - Banff to Montreal Canoe Journey

I wold like to thank all those who have donated to the "New Breed" (NB) film project or the climbing tools series. All donations go towards increasing productions values. The film realistically will run a whopping $350,000.00 CND. Your involvement means more to me then words can say. I don't take your trust lightly and promise to produce something that you will be proud to have been a part of. A donation of $50 or more gets you a copy of the film. 

The urban native survival guide


Feet in the starting blocks

So i have been working on the films treatment. A treatment is like the paper form of your pitch. It gives any potential investor an idea of what your film will look like or how it will play out. Course wrote way to much I realized I had basically written a script, voice over narration and all. I proofed it in a cool program called Grammery which somehow reads the text and makes corrections and suggestions. It's a pretty complex algorithm cause it actually reads whole sentences and lets you know if it is fragmented, passive or you tend to over use a word it will suggest an alternative. 

The other thing I have been working on is my crowd sourceing funding page. This has been going pretty good with the only real problem being getting the trailer finished. That has been a bit of a hold up. What to really include and how much to leave out. I need to keep it down to a few minutes I think. I was pretty wordy. 

Also taken me awhile to set up a decent green screen set up. I finally got a flawless key and a look that I like. No it is a matter of keeping things in point form and just get the message out there. my idea of how to present the film has been changing so that really doesn't help. I think I have settled on a story and how to present it. 

All this seems to be happening to fast. I have less then six months before I am leaving. That is like, so nothing in the overall scale of the universe. I still haven't heard from MEC which could be good or bad. maybe they don't get back to you if they passed you by. I have sort of been counting on them. Guess it is time to try a few more places for funding. APTN might be a good one.


Aven McKay at "Back to Batoche"So it is November 1st. that means that it is exactly 6 month till I start my trip. I have said this before that planning this stuff is easy actually doing it is another thing. I have been dealing with a bit of a route finding issue. That is crossing the height of land getting into Lake Superior drainage. As I may have mentioned we are crossing over the old North West companies route into the Dog River. This certainly isn't the normal route which is the Grand Portage route into the US . I chose this route from the historical perspective and it fits within the film as part of the Canadian voyageur route. So have acquired all the 1/50,000 topos for Ontario and slowly learning the software program to program a new Garmin GPS. I can also print out the map sheets I need for critical junctions. This will certainly be the crux of the route finding challenge. The rest of the routes are pretty straight forward in comparison.

         I haven't heard from the Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) about my expedition grant application yet. Should hear in the next couple weeks. I think I have a pretty good chance of getting it which would be $3000 cash and about $3000 in gear from the MEC shelves. Getting a carbon fiber kayak paddle would be awesome as those things cost about $600. One of those fancy GPS watches that monitor my bio-metrics would be a nice touch but it is one the wish list mostly. Getting a light 2 person 3 season tent is defiantly on the list. We have all kinds of tents here at home but most are 4 season 4 person tents.

       Also as time draws near it is time to release a find raising website. I am going with Indigo.  I am not comfortable pimping myself out as most people know but for the sake of the film I am willing to do so.

       Script writing has been going well. I have been getting up at 2am for the last week and writing till 6am. It is the only time that I can really have time to myself. Once the day starts I am tugged in half a dozen different directions. I will be writing on this blog a lot more as information comes in. Excited to get my boat which should show up in the next few weeks. Checjk out the Sea 1 canoe by clipper if you get the chance. It is nothing short of awesome. 


Tyler McKay at the Metis "Back to Batoche" festivalWell funny how things change in no time at all. I was applying for a expedition grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op so I had to write a pretty detailed trip plan and the purpose of my film idea. Once I had made a couple edits I sent it to a contact that I had in the Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA). Low and behold they loved the idea and were behind the project “Guns Blazing” as they put it. 

For me personally this means a lot. While my ancestors homeland is in Saskatchewan and I feel like that is my home in a lot of ways also I have to admit to myself I am a Albertan born and mostly raised. My children were born in Banff, Alberta. ( Last of a era as maternity stuff is now done in Canmore) For me my film idea is more about these kids and their future in the ever evolving Metis Nation no matter what province. I also helps to justify the enormous personal cost in time and money. Not something that we can really afford lightly. We have bills and expenses just like everybody else. To take five months off to simply go canoeing is a luxury that comes with a fair bit of sacrifice on all parts.

My wife has to take care of two units ages 6 and 9 and anybody who has kids knows that that age they are a handful. On the other hand she also has a full time job doing mountain rescue for national parks. 

My kids are a little bit more adaptive but still they have to go without dad for awhile. So the hiking, climbing and paddling we do on a regular basis comes to a halt for a bit. I will be replaced by a child care worker of some sort.

Freighting on the Prairies; Metis Red River carts.Myself I will miss them but at the same time I am doing something I have been planning to do for well over a decade. At 58 years of age this is about as old as a person can be and safely do this trip. If I waited till they got out of school I’d be 70 and I am pretty sure it just wouldn’t happen. 

Having the blessing of the MN means that a lot more doors are open to me that would have been forced open. Interviews with key players, introductions, credibility with historic staff. The actual list is quite extensive. The promise to assist in fund raising is actually secondary though somewhat important. 

So my conversation with MNA took place yesterday. At the same time A long term client of mine has taken up the cause. Dave Wakefield has donated some cash and is presently lobbying on behalf with friends, family and corporations. 

It’s great having this feeling that things are coming along after years of planning. I guess the one thing that isJoe McKay 2010 starting to become apparent is I now have to actually produce something as I am excepting peoples donations. They are believing in me so now I have to believe in myself. For the first time in quite awhile I do believe I can create something that will actually make a difference. A contribution to the nation that helped me out when I needed it the most.

You can expect a lot more frequent updates about how things are coming along. The stages of development. The next step will be the creation of a formal script and shot list. So stick around and check in regularly we are going to be real busy over the next seven months. 



The Journey broke down into sections

Trip Description

The concept of this trip started over ten years ago. A few years ago with the passing of my father I had a realization that a great deal of our family history was being lost with the passage of time. For the sake of my children and myself i decided to retrace our Metis ancestral roots. I made the astonishing discovery that we played a role as best supporting actors in the Canadian fur trade. In Virtually all of the waterways I had planned to paddle had been traveled by my ancestors over two hundred years prior.


“Brothers John & Donald McKAY entered the fur trade by way of Montreal, and by 1788 John was working for Alexander SHAW and his son Angus SHAW at Lake St Ann (Lake Nipigon, ON).” 

As a film maker the concept arose of making an educational documentary on the Metis people. The trip ties together the past, the present and my children’s future as the Metis culture continues to evolve in a rapidly changing world.

This will be a completely non mechanized canoe trip and rely entirely on the physical strength of the participants. There are as many as 70 portages between Banff and Montreal. Six between Banff and Calgary alone. 

Stage 1 - Banff to Winnipeg

The route itself begins from my hometown of Banff, Alberta. A location that had become part of our family’s oral history as far back as 1859 when my 4th great grandfather John Richard McKay guided the Hynde expedition. The first leg follows the Bow River which eventually joins the Red Deer river and becomes the South Saskatchewan river. The Saskatchewan fills the Diefenbaker Dam water reserve. At the area known as the Elbow is the source water for the Qu’Appelle river. This river also was known as the lower fur trade route into the Interior of the North West Territories is a direct line to the Red River country. The primary hazard on this section will be the spring melt and potential flooding. A short lived event that can easily be waited out. This is the far western extension of the Qu’Appelle valley and grows slowly in it’s flow rate as the prairies shed the winter snow pack. 

Joined the Qu’Appelle get a name change at the confluence of the Assiniboine river. Three days travel from this point and the Assiniboine spills into the Red river at present day Winnipeg.  Eventually this Where the South Saskatchewan turns north I join the Qu’Appelle river which combines with Manitoba’s Assiniboine river and drains into the Red river. 

Stage 2 - Winnipeg to Thunder Bay

Follow the Red river north to Lake Winnipeg. The initial part of the outlet is a series of complex mud flats not normally recommended as a pleasurable canoe route. The maze eventually ends and Lake Winnipeg is the next objective. The shallow nature of the lake makes sudden swells a potential objective hazard. Fortunately one can beach almost anywhere along this stretch and wait out the weather if required. 

A few days travel east along the south shore and we are at the outlet of the Winnipeg River. At one time this was a bit of a grunt for the Voyagers as they fought the upstream current. These days because of hydro electric dams the river is more a series of lake with short portages. The majority of the rapids have been removed. 

A week into this stage should bring us into the Lake of the Woods district. A complex chain of lakes and as many as 29 portages. This is a remote section of water with only the occasional fish camp as a sign of civilization. Kenora, Ontario is our last major resupply station before reaching Thunder Bay. These waters are rich in fur trade history and a major struggle for control of this area took place between the riveting HBC and NWCo. 

As we hit the boundary waters bordering the U.S. this trip takes a real turn towards history. Having dug up archival material it is our intention to retrace the HBC/NWCo alternative portage route used to avoid the american alternative known as Grand Portage. While more difficult it avoided heavy taxes leaned against the fur companies. It is quite likely that this route has not been repeated since the railroad was completed to the Red River district. Roughly 130 years. No recent information is available of the route and our crossing will make a nice addition to the data base. Todd and myself will certainly be the first Metis over this section in quite some time.

Crossing the height of land takes us to the upper section of the Dog River. A few class II rapids which can be avoided lead us into Dog lake. Dog lake acts as the headwaters of the Kaministiquia River. This river also has a few portages and one major waterfall that would be unsurvivable should one be foolish enough to go near it. The final section of the river is a pleasant run into Thunder Bay ( former Fort William ). 

Stage 3 - Thunder Bay to Saulte Ste Marie

From Thunder Bay the trip changes completely in nature of the type of water and the associated objective hazards. The north shore of NW Lake Superior has extended sections of towering cliffs which do not allow for shore landings just anywhere. The primary safety feature on this section is allowing for plenty of time to sit out bad or undesirable weather. Early starts and adhering to wind patterns. The Sea 1 canoe will be tricked out with a Falcon Sail Kit and is the best craft of its kind to take advantage of favourable wind conditions. There are a number supply points before reaching Marathon, Ontario. 

Pukaskwa National Park Visitor Centre is the last civilized outpost before crossing a 180 km wilderness section. This is the most remote section of the entire journey. Frequented by wilderness kayakers and canoeists is once again a place where patience and good weather forecasting are your greatest allies.  

From the area of Wawa on civilization becomes increasingly more frequent. Incredible stretches of beach and pristine wilderness along these shores are perhaps some of the best kept lands that Canadians south of the 60th can experience. 

Navigating the busy waterways west of Salute Ste Marie ends the remotest section and in some ways the most hazardous part of the entire journey. 


Stage 4 - Salute Ste Marie to Lake Nipissing

Following the Canadian side of the Saint Mary’s river we navigate the densely populated sections till we can get into the waters of Lake Huron. The encroachment of civilization will become immediately obvious. Camp logistics are more difficult as land is taken up by cottage owners and other commercial interests. 

Huron waters are protected by large islands which act as a break from the open area of this inland sea. Usual caution of good forecasting mixed with the right amount of fear and common sense are still required. 

As we get into the area of Georgian Bay it is a few days journey to the delta created by the French River. Using the Voyagers channel of this delta we head up river towards lake Nipissing. The 160km journey up the French River is better described as a series of lakes marked by short portages to avoid rapids which are created as one lake drains into another. 

Eventually reaching lake Nipissing and following the south shore we arrive at our destination of North Bay, Ontario.


Section 5 - Lake Nipissing to Montreal

A cross city portage of North Bay we put-in on the trout river. One days journey and we begin the navigation of the Mattawa River. The run down to the Ottawa river can be done in two possibly three days. This section has 9 portages which cover a distance of 2.2km total. It is interesting to note that the portage routes are exactly the same even after hundreds of years. My 5th great grandfather John McKay would have portaged this same section of water over these exact trails some two hundred and thirty years prior on his way to join the fur trade. A one way journey as he never returned from the Red River district of what was then the NWT in the district or Rupert’s Land.

The Ottawa river to the busy Saint Lawrence Seaway is the final leg of this journey. passing through the Ottawa valley the heart of new Canada at one time. The terminus of the fur trade route being Montreal. The relatively mild waters of this section is a nice cool down and a great time for reflection.

Perhaps one of the biggest hazards will be the busy commercial traffic in the seaway. It would be ironic if the longest portage of over a hundred would be several kilometres long just to avoid being crushed by a freighter of swamped by a tug boat.


The New Breed

You know I have had the “Last Metis” as a working title for the film that I would like to make. I started with that title partly because I liked the film and it had a nice ring to it. It was then just a matter of making it fit somehow.

So in my mind I somehow associated the Last Metis with my kids and myself. With me playing the role of of the last Metis in the family if I don’t somehow reconnect them to their native roots. I sort of realize now that I had gotten a little more hung up on that title then I should have been. Int was my fascination with the the Last of The Mohicans movie/book. 

Over the last couple years however i have been introducing my kids to the Metis culture to the point that they know they are Metis and belong in that family. Since then I have also joined the the Metis Nation of Alberta (MNA). I passed their cultural roots test and was issued a ID #. The next step is to get them registered and with their own ID #’s..

However I am confident that they are not going to be the last Metis in this family and I am not nearly as hung up on that title anymore. Rather I am looking to borrow the name from a magazine and archive website called “ The New Breed ”.  Ok it ain’t original but nor was the other. It is however much more descriptive and accurate I think.

One of the problems with the Metis indigenous culture is that it is evolving faster then the world would like it to. It is comfortable for euro caucasians to peg Metis as buckskin wearing musket toting mixed bloods. In a way I also think the majority of the Metis community has this self imposed stereotype and are reasonably comfortable with it. In fact they embrace it. 

I know that in northern Alberta communities the hunter, harvester lifestyle is a bit of a trademark for many. This is quite understandable but for myself I haven’t hunted in 30 years and have no plan to take it up unless we get unlimited harvesting rights. Even then i would be taking up Bow Hunting. 

The New Breed in my mind better suits myself and my kids. Through no fault of my own I was not raised in the traditional Metis community. I had plenty of contact with my grandparents thankfully, however my children do not even have that privilege.  Does this make them less indigenous? I don’t think so they have an authentic native voice and really are on the edge of what many of us are becoming. The evolution of our culture is something that I don’t think is being addressed quickly enough. 

If myself and my children are in this situation of not fitting the stereotype ( if there is one, perhaps this is my conception) then there must be thousands of others who are in the same situation. Young and middle aged indigenous peoples who’s parents adopted a urban lifestyle and perhaps not rejecting their native heritage but to a greater degree abandoning it. This leaves their children distanced by a generation from their immediate family and it’s cultural roots. In the case of Metis children it is easy to be enveloped by the vacuum of a euro centric culture and loose your identity altogether. Hence the connection to the title “Last Metis”. 

Another thing about the title New Breed is that it refers to the word Half-Breed which is something I find white folks have a hard time saying because it is not politically correct. On the other hand I have yet to meet a Metis individual that takes offence to being described by this label. My grandparents 4 generations back have been described as english half-breeds. So I have no issue being described as such. Sort of like how the Black people are the only ones who can use the “N” word. 

Anyhow long story short I may well change the title as the concept of the film has morphed considerably in the last four years since I came up with the plan to make a documentary. In there lies the problem with documentary’s the are a continuing evolving thing which may well end up being something completely new upon completion of gathering assets (footage) for your project.