Pollinator Canoe Sculpture

Doris Treleaven of Metalwork is creating a 16ft metal canoe sculpture that will be a remembrance to the First Nations who used the Credit River as their highway. The Native Canadians of this Great Lakes area did not leave large artifacts behind like Inukshuks or Totem Poles. They walked softly on the land and did not change it with their presence.

When asked what their symbol or totem was, they told us that it was the canoe. A practical invention that enabled them to move from one location to another to fish, hunt, and farm in this land filled with rivers.

In their honour, we are creating a memorial canoe that will be open to the earth to grow medicine plants - but be in the outer shape of their means of travel down and up the Credit River which was named for their honesty in trade.

Watch while our canoe takes shape...


Birchbark Canoe

The birchbark canoe was the principal means of water transportation for Aboriginal peoples of the Eastern Woodlands, and later voyageurs, who used it extensively in the fur trade in Canada.

The birchbark canoe was the principal means of water transportation for Aboriginal peoples of the Eastern Woodlands in Canada. Light and maneuverable, birchbark canoes were perfectly adapted to summer travel through the network of shallow streams, ponds, lakes and swift rivers of the Canadian Shield.  Though most canoes are no longer constructed of birchbark, its enduring historical legacy and its popularity as a pleasure craft have made it a Canadian cultural icon.

Canoes were a necessity for nomadic northern Algonquian peoples like the Innu (Montagnais-Naskapi), Ojibwa, Maliseet and Algonquin. After sustained contact with Europeans, voyageurs used birchbark canoes to explore and trade in the interior of the country, and to connect fur trade supply lines with central posts, notably Montréal. Samuel de Champlain noted the canoe’s elegance and speed, and remarked that it was “the only craft suitable” for navigation in Canada. Artist and author Edwin Tappan Adney, who dedicated much of his life to the preservation of traditional canoe-making techniques, claimed that European boats were “clumsy” and “utterly useless;” and thus, the birchbark canoe was so superior that it was adopted almost without exception in Canada. As such, most European explorers navigating inland Canada for the first time did so in birchbark canoes.

Construction

Birchbark was an ideal material for canoe construction, being smooth, hard, light, resilient and waterproof. Compared to other trees, the bark of the birch provided a superior construction material, as its grain wrapped around the tree rather than travelling the length of it, allowing the bark to be more expertly shaped. Birch trees were found almost everywhere across Canada, but where necessary, particularly west of the Rocky Mountains in the western Subarctic, spruce bark or cedar planks had to be substituted.The skills required to build birchbark canoes were passed on through generations of master builders. The frames were usually of cedar, soaked in water and bent to the shape of the canoe. The joints were sewn with spruce or white pine roots, which were pulled up, split and boiled by Indigenous women. The seams were waterproofed with hot spruce or pine resin gathered and applied with a stick; during travel, paddlers re-applied resin almost daily to keep the canoe watertight. Canoes were often painted on the prow, depicting colours, drawings or company insignia. The shape of each canoe differed according to its intended use, as well as the traditions of the people who made it.

The types of birchbark canoes used by Aboriginal peoples differed according to which route it was intended to take and how much cargo it was intended to carry.