“I walk 7K in the shoes of indigenous people.” Former Estevan resident crossing Canada by canoe and on foot


For seven months, Bert terHart, former Estevan resident, solo sailor and internationally renowned circumnavigator, will follow the routes of travelers through seven of Canada’s 10 provinces, paddling many of the same rivers as the world’s best-known explorers and mapmakers. Canada have paddled, as well as generation after generation. indigenous peoples for millennia.

Coast to coast by canoe and on foot – Bert terHart’s great new adventure is underway.

Again, his only navigational tools are current maps that he has created from Canadian topographic data and using a Cassens and Plath Ultra sextant, an artificial horizon and a compass. No electronic aids to navigation.

TerHart, a former Estevan resident who rose to fame after becoming the first North or South American to circumnavigate the globe solo, nonstop using only traditional navigational tools, and only the ninth person in the world to complete a such a journey, currently paddling and portaging across Canada to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe solo, nonstop, and then cross a continent entirely on their own.

For seven months, it will follow the routes of travelers through seven of Canada’s 10 provinces, paddling many of the same rivers that Canada’s best-known explorers and mapmakers have paddled, as well as generations of Indigenous people for millennia.

By following traditional routes across the country without GPS or other forms of electronic navigation, terHart is trying to raise awareness of the role that indigenous peoples played in the creation of this country.

“All the names we know – David Thompson, Samuel Hearne, Alexander MacKenzie, Simon Fraser, Samuel de Champlain, Henry Kelsey, the list goes on and on – the successes of these extraordinary explorers, surveyors and mapmakers rest at the feet of “Indigenous people across Canada. Without their help their work would have been impossible and Canada as we know it would not exist,” said terHart.

Another idea behind this trip across Canada was to inspire Canadians, young and old, to experience their own adventures, big or small.

“In your life, you will hear ‘cannot’ much more often than can. It’s too hard. It’s too far. You’re too old. The only yes you need is the one you say to yourself. Give yourself permission to say yes. If you can do that, you can do anything.” said Ter Hart. “If you’re willing to live a little out of the ordinary and persist with those choices, then those little choices will add up to something you can’t imagine. I’m a big believer in living your life just a little bit outside the box.”

Soldier, sailor, adventurer and serial entrepreneur, terHart doesn’t like being told no. He said he likes to do almost impossible things.

“It’s a big challenge. But if you have really big goals, you can fail over and over and over and over again,” terHart said.

He explained that by setting a big goal, a small failure or a challenge along the way does not mean that you will not achieve the goal, while with small goals the risk of failure due to a few minor misfires is much higher. And for him, solving problems and overcoming challenges on the way to a big goal is what made this adventure appealing.

“A small failure will derail a small goal. So you might as well dream big, then fail often and still succeed, as opposed to dreaming small, fail once, then everything flips,” terHart said.

He named his new attempt to make history Kai Nani Across Alone. Kai Nani is a Polynesian term that translates to synergy or harmony between wind and water. His wife, who is of Hawaiian and Native descent, originally chose this name for her canoe.

TerHart said that in canoeing and portaging across Canada, he wanted to see the world through the eyes of those who have traveled this route for centuries.

“I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the role the land, rivers and lakes played in Indigenous cultures. You can read about it until the pages crumble, but I thought there was only one way to experience Canada like a Canadian. I am a very proud Canadian. So I thought that the way to discover my country and better understand what the indigenous people felt was to see the country as they saw it.

“And if you travel through these [beautiful Canadian landscapes] very slowly, with an open heart and an open mind, very soon some of what indigenous people may have felt about their own environment begins to seep into you, because that’s how nature works .

“It’s true, what they say, if you want to understand something about a person, you have to walk a mile in their shoes, so I just choose to walk 7,000 miles in their shoes.”

TerHart added that he was fascinated by the skill and resilience of Indigenous peoples. Although it does not have digital navigation, it still uses the best technology of the contemporary world in the sense of equipment and certain tools, which the ancestors did not have and which still moved through the harsh Canadian soils.

“My clothes must be incredibly good, they’re incredibly technologically advanced, but it’s no better than what they had back then. They had tools that worked extremely well, including clothes, and they were made with very primitive instruments, so for me it’s amazing.”

TerHart left Steveston, British Columbia on April 1. Since then, he has traveled all over British Columbia and visited Rocky Mountain House, Alberta on May 16. He plans to cross Saskatchewan in late spring and hopes to cross the northern part of the province in 11 days.

The Mercury spoke to terHart while still in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. He said it was one of the toughest days and he was completely exhausted.

“Today was quite difficult because I ended up walking something like 40 kilometers, which is a lot, going up and down the mountains, pulling the canoe, so I’m a little tired but it was a great day,” terHart shared.

Highway 1 between Golden and Lake Louise was closed, and the adventurer had the whole road to himself.

TerHart hopes to be at Big Shippagan Lighthouse, New Brunswick, and in the Atlantic Ocean by November. The short Canadian summer season puts a lot of pressure on the incredible adventure. TerHart left home in the snow and will complete his mission when temperatures most likely drop below zero for good. And to ensure that the route is completed, he must continue to walk and paddle in all weathers, doing 20 to 40 kilometers a day.

The first month of his adventure, when terHart had to travel many miles uphill and uphill due to the BC landscape, was also filled with lots of rain.

“It rained pretty much every other day,” terHart said after riding his first 1,000 miles through British Columbia. “It rained last night, so my tent is just a sponge right now. It’s wet.”

Since terHart repeats the route of native peoples and travelers, rather than traveling west to east, his trail takes him north and south, following waterways that flow north to south.

“There are no straights at all. It’s awful, going north and going south and all you want to do is go east,” terHart explained.

At 63, he assesses challenges realistically, but says it doesn’t affect his attitude.

“I feel good. I don’t think British Columbia will be the hardest part. It’s the longest province to go through, and there’s more walking. I think I probably walked 500 miles on foot and paddled 500 miles. But there are other parts of the trip that are going to be just as challenging in different settings. But I feel great about that,” terHart said.

And while traversing often tricky routes is already a huge physical challenge, he added that the hardest part of the adventure is actually knowing to keep moving every day.

“There is no rest, no matter if it’s raining, or if it’s sunny or windy, or if you feel bad, or if you’re really sorry, you just have to get up and go. To be honest, that’s more than half the battle. It’s physically or mentally one of the hardest things because the pressure to keep getting there is enormous. And that pressure is going to be there. for seven months,” terHart said.

The Kai Nani Across Alone adventure also carries a call to action, as terHart has created a petition, suggesting renaming Howse Pass, which connects the Columbia River Valley in British Columbia’s interior to the eastern slopes of the mountains. Rockies. This pass is one of the few crossings of the Continental Divide and as such has served as a primary trade and travel route for generations of Indigenous people for millennia, which terHart would like to see reflected in the new name.

“The message about indigenous people was extremely well received. It’s a very difficult message to convey if you’re an old white man like me,” terHart said with a laugh. “[People I talked to about it] first agree that the role that indigenous peoples played in the creation of this country is underestimated. And they’re happy to know that I’m trying to do something about it. And two, that there is something more concrete being done to rename Howse Pass.”

Joseph Howse was a fur trader, explorer and linguistic scholar, who created A Grammar of the Cree Language. Since Howse only crossed the pass twice and a river and a mountain are named after him, terHart suggests finding a name that would better reflect the pass’ Aboriginal heritage and role.

As of May 16, the petition has 123 signatures out of the goal of 200. The link to the petition to have Col Howse renamed is at kainani.ca.

For more on terHart’s progress and adventures, visit kainani.ca, the5capes.com, and the Kai Nani Across Alone Facebook page.


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