Dugout Canoe Project - July 2016

One of our first public projects was to create a dugout canoe using traditional techniques.  Lheidli T’enneh Elders Edie and Robert Frederick were commissioned to take this work on and spent several weeks crafting this vessel at The Exploration Place.  According to Elders, this was the first time a canoe had been carved in the traditional grounds of the historical Lheidli T’enneh Village in over 100 years. Robert was eager to share his knowledge with the public as well as with his carving team. Edie Frederick explained that “Robert grew up with the last generation of elders who made the canoes in the 50s, and was able to learn from them. He is an invaluable resource for Lheidli T’enneh in keeping the history and traditions alive. There are only a few people like Robert left, whose stories and traditions were passed down to him directly from old elders like his mother and father”.

Visitors to the Exploration Place were encouraged to join the Elders and work on the dugout canoe. Most responded quickly and picked the adze up with excitement.  By picking up an adze and chipping away they were able to understand the level of difficulty and time that went into creating a dugout canoe. Some visitors returned daily to work on the project as they wanted to be a part of the entire process.   With over 100 different people joining the project, a gorgeous cottonwood dugout was created. It was launched in time to be paddled in the annual Northern Hardware Canoe Race along the Nechako River; the first dugout canoe to participate ever.

This canoe project, an example of living history and cultural exploration, inspired many to embrace this tradition and the permanent exhibit in the Museum is all the stronger for it.  This project in particular enhanced the profile of Hodul’eh-a, but also provided the public with a very tangible reason to come and visit. The canoe now sits at the entrance of this gallery where children can still get inside and enjoy the works that so many different hands helped create.

We would be remiss if we didn’t offer a huge thank you to Fortwood Homes and Archer CRM for their assistance with this exciting project.