These days, Canadians have a reputation for being a pretty genteel lot–moderate, socially conscious, and known for being polite. But historically, the country was shaped by some pretty hardcore badasses. After all, one doesn’t forge a nation out of vast wilderness and extensive tundra without a heavy dose of internal fortitude.
Those early explorers and adventurers who charted new territory and helped shape the country are now the focus of a new campaign from HBC History Foundation, a historical foundation established by Canada’s iconic retailer Hudson’s Bay Company. In a series titled “Country of Adventurers,” present-day adventurers honor great explorers of the past.
The first spot in the campaign, created by agency Red Urban, focuses on Dr. John Rae, a Scottish doctor who worked for Hudson’s Bay Company from 1833 to 1856. Rae is considered one of the greatest arctic explorers ever–he was the man who found the missing link to the arctic’s Northwest Passage and discovered the fate of the Franklin Expedition. Working closely with, and learning from, the Inuit, Rae learned to live off the land and led–and survived–four arctic expeditions in the 1840s and 1850s. To tell this story, HBC History Foundation enlisted adventurer Les Stroud. Better known as Survivorman, Stroud is a modern-day survivalist who writes, produces, and stars in survival-themed programs.
The campaign is supported by an interactive website that details the specifics of each explorer’s journey, and the role they played in both the history of Hudson’s Bay Company and Canada. New stories will roll out throughout the fall and 2016.
As North America’s oldest retailer, founded in 1670, Hudson’s Bay Company is in a unique position to bring these stories to a modern audience. Throughout its history, which started with the fur trade, Hudson’s Bay Company explorers were pioneers in the Arctic, mapped large swaths of the country from the St. Lawrence to the Pacific, and built some of the first permanent settlements in the Canadian west.
“Nearly 350 years ago, in 1670, Hudson’s Bay Company was founded as the ‘Company of Adventurers trading into Hudson Bay.’ Our company helped establish the nation and our archives represent an important part of the story of Canada,” says HBC governor and executive chairman Richard Baker. “That’s why the HBC History Foundation is uniquely positioned and committed to telling Canada’s rich stories.”