The facilitator in the orange shirt is Roger Williams The children are part of the Aamjiwnaang Scouts

Canoe building facilitator, Roger Williams, demonstrating one of the many steps needed to build a Birch Bark canoe to the Aamjiwnaang Scouts.

By Marina Plain

AAMJIWNAANG FIRST NATION—The Great Lakes Canoe Journey has once again began their Birch Bark Canoe teachings.

The project coordinator is University of Toronto Student; Sylva Plain. She and her team are building a new canoe in her home territory of Aamjiwnaang. The project featured a week long itinerary of workshops featuring various community leaders. Plain kick-started the event on Oct 22, with a water ceremony facilitated by Lyn Rosales.

The intent of the project is to utilize the canoe as a teaching vessel for other communities to learn history and what it takes to build a Birch Bark Canoe. Plain plans to visit communities to share the knowledge and teachings of the water and traditional teachings.

In 2014, Plain began the Great Lakes Canoe Journey Project (supported by the University of Toronto) as part of her studies. The project provided employment to several Fist Nation youth, whom assisted with the build during that summer. Plain’s intent was to bring awareness of how to care for the water.

During this year’s canoe build, Aamjiwnaang community members, leadership, and youth gained knowledge and understanding of how the canoe connects to water and how to care for it. Plain’s objectives are being achieved in Aamjiwaang.

The canoe was built by Master Canoe Builder; Great grandson of William Commanda, Roger “Chuck” Commanda.

The week was filled with opportunities to drop-in and get involved with the build. Chief Joanne Rogers participated and demonstrated great leadership by showing her support for the initiative throughout the week.

The Aamjiwnaang Cub Scouts had the opportunity to learn about making paddles with Elder Roger Williams at his wood working shop. On the final day, well known author David Plain provided a workshop titled “Anishnabeg Highways”.

“I think the canoe build project went a long way instilling a pride in our culture,” stated David Plain. “…and the end product can be used to share our culture with the wider community.”

For more information about the Great Lakes Canoe Journey, visit the Great Lakes Canoe Journey Facebook page.