I am a fan of regional history but not of dry history lessons, so I was psyched with the new biography on the life of Pierre-Espirit Radisson. Canadian journalist Mark Bourrie has written a swashbuckling tale of Radisson’s swashbuckling life. Turns out, stopping in Ashland on one of his expeditions is just one of his many adventures.
Radisson was a free spirit who charmed his way across cultures, languages and continents. I was fascinated by the details of life and indigenous practices in the first quarter of the book. There is an in-depth description of a starving first winter near Chequamegon Bay and the intertribal feast held to mark the end of winter. It was refreshing to read a work placing the early exploration of the region in a critical modern context. In this book, North America is not “discovered” and the region is not portrayed as “uninhabited wilderness,” but rather as a landscape full of vibrant indigenous cultures.