“Nature will certainly triumph. Whether it will triumph over us, or in us and through us, remains to be seen.” Wayland Drew, 1973.
In the summer of 1972, Professors John Wadland and Bob Page travelled north to meet with their colleague Bruce Hodgins to scout out possibilities for a Canadian Studies field trip at Camp Wanapitei on Lake Temagami. Hodgins was volunteer director of the camp, in addition to being a professor of history at Trent. Apparently, they like what they saw because the next fall, September 1973, thirty five students and a small team of faculty made the trip north to canoe, hike, square dance, and carry on academic discussions about environmental, Indigenous and Canadian issues.
Forty years later, what started as the Canadian Studies 200 field trip has evolved into a uniquely Trent tradition. This September, a similar group of students and faculty will set out in a yellow school bus for Temagami. In the intervening years, thousands of people have been drawn to this trip, building a tremendous community of people interested in understanding the land, sustainability, and our human connection to nature.
This legacy is due to the hard work of John Wadland and Bruce Hodgins. Wadland studied under renowned naturalist and environmentalist John Livingston and was keen for his students to challenge the grand narrative of progress and to, perhaps, reclaim some of their humility toward nature and their understanding of its limits. Hodgins equally shared Wadland’s passion for these issues and pursued a lifetime of historical research on Temagami. They made a tremendous team, bringing this trip to life each fall for many decades (although they had a great supporting cast, including Page, Fred Helleiner, Alan Wilson, Shelagh Grant, Jim Stuthers, and many, many others). Wanapitei and Temagami were an ideal canvas for this, with a history of mining, forestry and cottaging arrayed beside issues of forest sustainability and First Nations rights.
While Hodgins and Wadland continue to be actively involved with the trip, the mantle has been passed to Peter Andree (a Trent alumnus, now a faculty member at Carleton) and me, Stephen Hill. We've come to appreciate the magic that arises from a dose of physical hardship, paddling, and authentic discussion. We've renamed the weekend the Trent Temagami Colloquium to reflect the multiple disciplinary perspectives we hope will come, but we remain firmly committed to the original goals of the trip, namely to encourage people to think critically about our relationship to nature and the land, perhaps best captured by Wayland Drew's words above.