Brian J Theriault (pronounced Teri’-Oh), wooden snowshoe artisan with his father, Edmond, 86, developed a very special one-of-a-kind pair of ‘Dream Catcher’ commemorative snowshoes for President Obama to wear snowshoeing on the White House lawn this winter. The Theriaults have crafted wooden snowshoes by hand ever since the father taught himself the traditional methods decades ago. This allowed him to teach self-reliance to his eleven children while simultaneously equipping the kids with their own snowshoes. That is the equivalent of a whole snowshoe team under one roof!
A Native American, Brian designed a Presidential set of snowshoes specifically for Obama. Made in the ways and methods of tradition, this pair has a special twist. Brian explains, “These snowshoes have ‘Dream Catchers’ on the (front) end with a star weaved in the middle. The ‘Dream Catchers’ represent different things to the Native Americans and hopefully with (them) on the snowshoes, the bad thoughts and bad events won’t happen.” With the angst and terror in global conflicts and political affairs, perhaps everyone on the globe needs to wear a pair . . . .
Their processes use ash trees harvested by hand from their forests for the frame’s skeleton strips. Cowhides provide the strappings and bindings, and plenty of old fashioned hard work converts these raw materials into majestic wooden shoes, techniques perfected by Native Americans for eons. Completing a pair of Theriault Snowshoes takes weeks at their shop in Fort Kent Mills, Maine. A pair is a piece of history, a treasure.
Customarily, a ‘Dream Catcher’ hangs from a ceiling or wall. The traditions began as an Indian charm to protect sleeping children from nightmares. The legend espouses that bad dreams (and unsavory thoughts) tangle in the webbing, blocking them from the mind. Good thoughts and snow-white dreams, however, can slip down the feathers hanging in the freedom of air on the hoop’s underside to enter the mind without ever touching the web spun inside.
If he were given an opportunity to present them to the President — it is a fair guess he would have pairs for the children along with the First Lady — and teach the Obamas to snowshoe on the front lawn of the White House, the result would be a lifetime moment for him, his tribe, and this country’s Indian heritage. Brian is Vice-Chief of the Wesget Sipu, a tribe with a historical relationship with the French Acadians. Brian wistfully says, “This would be a special occasion in my (life) as someone who makes a craft is able to meet (and provide this gift) to someone of President Obama’s high stature.” It would be an important moment for appreciation of the native Indian influence on snowshoeing, and by extension, on culture in its most historical way.
The world of snowshoeing would be a beneficiary, too, as the media coverage surrounding such an occasion would receive national attention and prominence for a sport that is ‘dissed’ by the more under-informed of our masses as ‘minor.’ Brian added, “I think so many good things could come out of it.”
He has been busy communicating with government officials, sending letters, emails, and working to gather political support to cause this happening. Mark Elmore, United States Snowshoe Association Sports Director, added his encouragement, commenting, “The USSSA would look forward to introducing the fun of snowshoeing at the White House or Washington Mall. Brian’s special ‘Dream Catcher snowshoes’ could really catch on. We might have to outfit our USSSA National Snowshoe Team with their own ‘Dream Catchers’ in order to break a good trail for the President.”
Support for this initiative comes from a diverse group including Peter J. Sirois, President, America’s First Mile, and President of the Can Am Crown, who wrote, “Brian showcases the wise use of the area’s natural resources, keeping alive an important tool that helped open the American frontier. We pride ourselves in getting things done with true American (patriotism).”
Louise M. Martin of the Maine Acadian Heritage Council, Judy G. Sherman, President, Made In Aroostook, Inc., Louis Moreau, Chairman, Fort Kent Town Council, and Paul Bernier, Chair of Maine’s Resource Conservation and Development are all working in support of this initiative.
Chief Donat J. Cyr of the Wesget Sipu tribe writes of Brian’s family representing “his people and Native culture with pride . . . (with) the same craftsmanship that was taught by our people in centuries past.” Backing also comes from state representative and senator, Judy Ayotte Paradis, and representative Ross Paradis.
Making snowshoes in the northernmost reaches of Maine does not put the Theriaults in the forefront of the population centers of the country. That should not matter, of course, but it does. A man pursuing his dream, working to help the success of our country and President through the age-old techniques of wooden snowshoes and Indian traditions should make any snowshoe enthusiast proud . . . and honored!
The Theriault video for snowshoeing, “Making Traditional Snowshoes: An Instructional DVD Video” is available for your collection at their website named, appropriately, I love Snowshoes. This is a humble, sincere effort at teaching the craft; there is no “Sham Wow” here, just true love for the craft. The best line in the DVD comes from the stoic elder, Edmond, who tells the anecdote of the old snowshoe maker when asked if he had been making them all of his life, deadpans, “Not yet . . . .”
“I think President Obama is a special person,” Brian said, a sentiment, which comes through loud, and clear. Regardless of one’s political leanings, Brian’s intent and drive is inspirational and deserves the sports’ attention. Maybe, just maybe, a snowshoe happening could be held in Washington D.C. with the President leading the way in his new Theriault ‘Dream Catcher’ snowshoes, providing a wonderful example for the rest of the country about the health and happiness benefits of this special winter sport.
Brian is giving thought to the idea I proffered to him about creating ‘Dream Catcher’ Snowshoes as one of his brands that would be available to all.
This creativity brought by one man with an idea, Brian Theriault, to the world of the snowshoeing sport is welcome and could find a National, even Global, stage. We would have a Chief to thank for it.
http://www.ilovesnowshoes.com or write:
Brian J. Theriault
P.O. Box 242
Fort Kent Mills, Maine, 04744
Phillip Gary Smith’s new book “Harmonizing: Keys to Living in the Song of Life” will be available soon at his website www.ultrasuperior.com.
Email phillip with your thoughts: email@example.com.