Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, Snimokobi First Nation, Plenty Canada and friends have been working together to build two birch bark canoes. This two month long workshop was led by birch bark artisans Chuck and Janet Commanda. With everyone’s hard work, both canoes have been completed.
As outlined in a previous blog posting, the process began with harvesting the required materials. The building process began with joining three strips of birch bark into one large sheet using spruce root to stitch the seams. Three strips of bark are not typically required but it had been difficult finding large, healthy white birch trees. The large sheet of stitched birch bark was then placed on a table and bent around a form. The bark was sewn to the cedar gunwale using spruce root. Moving closer to the ends of the canoe, the gunwale had to be bent upwards. The gunwale was not stitched to the bark at the ends of the canoe allowing for the next important step.
The shape of the canoe ends were created using cedar. The wood was soaked in hot water to make it pliable and then bent into the correct shape. These forms were then sewn into the ends of the canoe and excess bark was trimmed.
The yoke and thwarts were crafted out of ash wood and held in place by spruce root.
Cedar, planed into thin strips, was used for sheeting. These strips were placed along the inside of the canoe.
The ribs of the canoe were also made with cedar. The strips were steamed, bent and placed in the canoe on an angle. After being left overnight to dry into shape, the ribs were carefully tapped into place as the bark stretched. We were then able to sew together the ends of the canoe.
With the ends completed and the sheeting and ribs in place, a cedar strip was used to cap off the top of the canoe. This strip was fastened to the gunwales using pins made out of ironwood.
The final step was to apply a mixture of animal fat and spruce gum to seal all seams and small holes with gum to make the canoe watertight.
On August 28, 2012, the two birch bark canoes were complete. Many individuals gathered for a pipe ceremony on the bank of the Mississippi River to honor the canoes. With a deep sense of pride and achievement, we set the two birch bark canoes afloat. Each canoe now has a home with the Shabotobaadjiwan and Snimikobi First Nations. It has been a pleasure to be involved in this once in a life time experience.
Invasive Species Community Outreach Liaison