There are a few words in Camp Voyageur lore which are sure to inspire reverence whenever mentioned– words like Grand Portage, Quetico, Plaquer, and Gouvernail.
There is a natural progression, that comes with guidance and practice, for campers when participating in sports and wilderness camping at Voyageur. Campers are encouraged to try all activities, to learn from peers and counselors in training sessions as well as through experiential recreation. Campers make obvious physical changes and improve in performance on athletic fields. They get stronger, becoming more adept at wilderness tripping skills as they take on new challenges and succeed.
One of the ways we recognize their progression is with ranks. Campers can earn two different ranks– one for canoe-tripping and an overall rank at the closing campfire.
Bushwhackers are campers who portage and efficiently stern a canoe for two full days on the trail. Junior Bushwackers handle a light canoe, while Senior Bushwhackers handle a Grumman aluminum canoe.
A Big Man is a camper who helps the counselor coordinate the trip. He helps plan the menu, pack food, and cooks several dinners. He navigates for two full days on the trail, while sterning and carrying a canoe. He must be a proficient campfire builder. A Big Man must possess integrity, lead by example, and act as a second leader.
Trip leaders announce campers who earned a canoe-tripping rank during trip stories at the fire circle. Campers are further recognized at the end-of-session banquet and eternalized in the Paddle Post newspaper.
CV’s other ranking system recognizes tenure, individual growth, leadership, and the positive contribution campers make to the community both in-camp and on the trail. Prior to the closing campfire, counselors convene to determine camper rankings. Ranks adapted from voyageur history books by Grace Lee Nute include: Pork Eater (rookie), Norwester (have taken a portage), Milieu (middleman in a Voyageur canoe), Avant (bowman), Hivernaut (winterer), and Gouvernail (sternsman). We’ve expanded upon Nute’s original ranks but keep the revised criteria close to the chest. After Pork Eater, each rank is hard-earned and fewer than 10% of campers will reach Gouvernail status.
Ranks help to motivate campers as well as reward growth and high personal character. To the average Joe Camper, they may sound trivial. Yet ask any veteran Voyageur about the time he earned his rank and you’re sure to hear a gallant tale. On y va, les Voyageurs! (Let’s go, Voyageurs!)
If you have a story to share from when you earned your rank, let us know in the comments section.