Thu. Feb 29th, 2024

Chuck Commanda grew up as part of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, an Algonquin First Nation. When he was a child, he helped his grandparents make birch bark canoes. Now, years later, Chuck enjoys sharing his knowledge and showing off his skills to the public.

Chuck recently attended the “Canoe Politics” workshop in Winnipeg, where he says much of the discussion focused on reconciliation through canoeing.

“Canoeing is a shared experience that all indigenous and non-indigenous people can relate to. “That makes it an effective tool for reconciliation.”

Relearn traditional techniques.

From Winnipeg, he went to Curve Lake First Nation, northeast of Peterborough, to build his first birch bark canoe of the year.

There, he is working with community members, including Coleman Williams, to recover some of the knowledge that has been lost.

two men holding wooden materialsColeman and Chuck

“My hope is that Coleman will become the community canoe builder and pass it on to others.”

Chuck adds that there is a real sense of pride in canoe projects like the construction of Curve Lake.

two men removing bark from the trunk

Once the Curve Lake canoe is completed, “the community hopes to use the canoe as a teaching tool to participate in the wild rice harvest, for example.”

Coming soon to Murphys Point…

Chuck is taking Coleman to Murphys Point Provincial Park from July 6-19 to build his next birch bark canoe.

Chuck working with a large sheet of birch bark

Master and apprentice will build a 12ft canoe at the main beach picnic shelter, daily from 10am to 3pm Everyone is welcome to visit and mingle.

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All materials for the construction of the Murphys Point birch bark canoe came from the park and surrounding areas, including birch bark, cedar for the whalebones, ribs and sheets, ash for the thwarts, roots of spruce and rubber for sewing and sealant and iron wood for wooden pegs.

See some of the prep work here:

This project is one of eight Indigenous recognition projects funded by Ontario Parks’ 125th anniversary program. OP125’s focus from an Indigenous perspective is to recognize who Ontario Parks is today: an organization committed to building and renewing positive relationships with our Indigenous partners in the future.