Collaboration with Local and Regional Groups Produces Memorable Donation

A partnership between Rainy River First Nations’ Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, Lakehead University, and Algonquin Avenue Public School has provided a group of Grade 8 students with the unique opportunity to build and donate a 10-foot birch bark hand-built canoe.

The project entailed classroom activities such as studying the watercraft and its history, and outdoor activities including gathering materials from the land such as spruce roots and birch bark, and learning to canoe on a body of water. Throughout the building process, the students received traditional Indigenous teachings related to the vessel, experienced land-based learning, and understood that the canoe symbolizes the connection between land and water. To add finishing touches to the build, the school enlisted the artistic proficiency of Fort William First Nation knowledge keeper Helen Pelletier to teach the skilled application of sgraffito (bark etching). The canoe features an etched sturgeon to showcase the significance of the fish in Indigenous cultures of Northwestern Ontario.

During the build, the Grade 8 students received guided instruction by Lakehead University’s 1st year Indigenous Learning 1100 class where the older students engaged the youth in a variety of Indigenous land-based learning activities. The young teenagers were also pleased to welcome another group of mentors from Lakehead University, specific to their exploits on the water. Lakehead University’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism department coached them on canoeing techniques, canoe safety skills, and an appreciation of the watercraft.

On June 22nd, the canoe traveled to Manitou Mounds Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung, a National Historic Site of Canada near Stratton, Ontario, to be donated and used for educational purposes in their Interpretive programming. Click here to learn more about Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung.