L'Ange-Gardien - Champboisé
"Wabos Sipi, the Du Lièvre River"
by Denis Charette
L'Ange-Gardien, The Great Hare
In its own way, this work of art reminds us of one of the mythological gods of the Algonquin peoples. Michabou, says the Great Hare, occupies a choice place in mythological history: for some, he is the absolute master of the animal world and the creator of human beings; for others, he is the “Water Spirit”, the guardian of the Lièvre falls and rapids, this gentle river situated in the heart of L’Ange-Gardien.
The Du Lièvre River, which obviously calls to mind the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus virginianus), has been called this since 1686; it was the Chevalier de Troyes who entered it as such in his journal during his expedition to the Hudson Bay. Despite assumptions to the contrary, there is no evidence to suggest that the Algonquins adopted the name Wabos Sipi to refer to our large beautiful river.
At the time of the fur trade, the Du Lièvre River served as a bypass, in order to avoid the Ottawa River, especially near the Chaudières Falls, where the Iroquois were known to lay in wait to ambush passers-by. Native Americans, missionaries, dealers and travellers, who were geographers before their time, used the network of lakes and portages of the Laurentian countryside to reach the source of our great rivers. They then descended towards the Outaouais, arriving at the mouth of the Dumoine and Coulonge rivers, determined to continue their journey to “Pays d'en haut”.
Wabos Sipi, the Du Lièvre River, 2020, by Denis Charette
The river’s name was Wabos Sipi, translated directly from the Algonquin as Du Lièvre River, and is one of the bodies of water that maintained a name that is closest to the original. Its falls have been described as one of the most beautiful in the country. Given the storytelling tradition of the totem, be it legend or myth, here is the story behind this sculpture:
Wabos, the hare, seated at the bottom of the falls, transforms into the guardian angel of his territory, wandering through the river currents nourishing the inhabitants thanks to its agriculture, sport fishing, mineral resources and forest.
Denis Charrette, master sculptor and engraver, was born in 1963. This artist of Algonquin descent works mainly with natural materials, such as wood, stone and antler. Two-time recipient of the Canada Council for the Arts grant, he had the opportunity to enrich his knowledge of totemic sculpture with the internationally acclaimed Haida sculptor Reg Davidson.