Author Archives: ldfwintergames

Moving to Dejope

The canoe is all set to move to its new and final home: Dejope Residence Hall on the UW-Madison campus. The move will happen in one week, on Tuesday, May 27, around midday. We are looking forward to welcoming Wayne and so many others who helped on the canoe. The canoe will be paddled from the future site of the UW Alumni Park next to Memorial Union down to Dejope Hall.

The wall mounts are all ready to receive the canoe inside Dejope Hall. The canoe will be visible in a prominent location, on the threshold between the Four Lakes Market and the dining area. This area looks out over Lake Mendota and the canoe will be visible from the Lakeshore Path. The canoe will bring an Ojibwe presence to the building’s art installations and be an enduring symbol of the importance of indigenous peoples in Wisconsin’s past, present, and future.

We would like to thank all of the people in University Housing who have been working hard in the last weeks to prepare for the canoe’s installation. In addition to the canoe, two plaques will be hung: one containing information on the canoe, and the other to commemorate the artist and thank the donors who have made this installation possible:

  • Philippe and Julie COQUARD family
  • Wisconsin Alumni Association
  • UW-Madison Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration
  • UW-Madison Division of University Housing

Miigwetch to everyone who has been part of the project and see you soon!

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Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Events


Fine-tuning ribs, preparing pitch.

Last week Wayne trimmed and set the ribs permanently into the canoe. All that was left today was to fine tune the positioning of each rib with a mallet to get a fit that was straight and true. As a preliminary step, the hull was doused with boiling water to ensure that the bark would stretch to accommodate each precision adjustment. Once satisfied with his work, Wayne flooded the canoe to test the bark for leaks. To Wayne’s great satisfaction, there were only a few minor leaks, reflecting the excellent quality of both the materials and workmanship that have gone into this particular canoe. These leaks will be closed in the final step: pitching the seams.

While the ribs were being fine-tuned, the preparation of the pitch began. Raw pine pitch, which is near solid at room temperature, was heated in metal cans to decrease its viscosity. What bubbled up was a thick black liquid, which was then strained through burlap to remove impurities. This was the first step in preparing the pitch, which will be finished tomorrow and then applied to the canoe.

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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Building the Canoe


Ribs in, it’s lift-off time.

Once the last seams in the hull were sewn up last week, they were caulked from the inside. All the seams will be finished from the outside with pitch during the final stages. In the meantime, we have had several class visits in the woodshop to learn about the canoe project and Ojibwe culture. Wayne brought several ENVISION students with him from Lac du Flambeau today to help out. Wayne started the day with an inspiring lesson, which got everyone excited to begin work today on the canoe’s ribs.

Work began by dousing the canoe with boiling water to hydrate and soften the birchbark. ENVISION students lent a hand in giving the canoe a sponge bath. Temporary spacers were then placed flat into the bed of the canoe, to help displace the pressure as the ribs were added. Inserting the ribs is a delicate step, as they stretch and shape the hull of the canoe. Whereas previously the canoe had a flat bottom, the ribs give the canoe it’s final shape: an elegant rounded hull that is streamline and efficient in the water. To form the ribs to the hull, Wayne will stand on the ribs in the canoe. For this step, he wears moccasins to make sure he doesn’t slip on the wet wood.

The ribs are prepared with steam and boiling water to make them pliable enough to bend into shape. Then they are placed into the canoe. The fit has to be flush. Wayne stood on the ribs, forcing them into place, while helpers lifted the sides of the canoe and tacked the ribs into place. The canoe had to be rehydrated often while working. Beginning from the center and working out to the ends, the canoe took new form. As the hull stretched, the bow and stern lifted off the ground with grace. That’s what Wayne calls lift-off time.

Once all the ribs were in, clamps and braces were put on to make sure that all of the ribs and the canoe retain their shape while drying without slipping whatsoever. To let the canoe dry into its new shape and to let the ribs do their work, the canoe was hoisted off the ground and suspended from ropes. It was a long day, with lots of good help that brought us a long step forward with the canoe.

Watch a video synopsis of the work, with a final summary by Wayne.

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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Building the Canoe


With fresh roots, work continues.

On Tuesday, Wayne returned from Lac du Flambeau with fresh spruce roots that he harvested together with ENVISION students. Wayne split the roots in the woodshop and then boiled them up in a large pot of water, which made it a simple task to peel off the bark and clean them for lashing.

Watch a video of the root processing here: The spruce roots were immediately put to use, stitching up the stern of the canoe. Small birchbark spacers were cut and worked into place, the ends of the laminated outwales were trimmed with a crooked knife.

With this stitching complete, the bow and stern were in good order. In an Ojibwe birchbark canoe, one doesn’t easily lose sight of where one’s going, or forget where one’s been. The bow of the canoe is literally called “the future” (niigaan jiimaan) and the stern “the past” (ishkweyaang jiimaan).

The water that was used to boil the spruce roots aquired a deep red hue from the roots and was put to work again later in the day to soften up the lacrosse sticks so that the hoops could be bent into shape. The hoops were then lashed tight with rawhide. Wayne has been busy preparing new equipment for this February’s Ojibwe Winter Games. In the photos below you’ll also see two lacrosse balls, carved from walnut, and the finished atlatls.

Watch a video of Wayne making a lacrosse stick. On Wednesday, the time came to remove the plywood building frame. This was an exciting moment for all to see the birch hull, and to be able to lift this light and elegant craft. As the permanent thwarts were lashed in, the birchbark hull was scraped smooth to prepare for the ribs, which will be inserted soon.

Amid all the work, there was also time to visit and to sing.  Students came to visit from the Art department’s print-making class, and Colin and Wayne exchanged songs while lashing the thwarts.

print-making class

Wayne introducing the students to his canoe and traditions

Watch a video of the singing!


fun and games in the woodshop

This week, work on the canoe relaxed so that Wayne could take advantage of the woodshop to start preparing equipment for the Ojibwe Winter Games (Ojibweg Bibooni-Ataadiiwin). The games take place every year at Lac du Flambeau, where school children participate in Ojibwe culture, playing games such as snowshoe races, spear throwing, and snow snake tossing.

The snow snake (gooniikaa-ginebig) is a spear-like object, topped with a carved snake’s head instead of a spearhead. The snakes are skidded along an alley on a frozen lake to see who can cast their snake the farthest. The snakes appear to slither as they slide. On Thursday, Wayne cut out the bodies of the snow snakes with the table saw and then cut out the heads on the band saw. Watch this video to see the process:

The scraps of maple wood left over from the snow snakes will be used to make spears (zhiimaagan), which are cast using an atlatl (apaginaatig). On Thursday, Wayne cut out the atlatls, drilled finger holes, and then sanded them to shape and smooth them. Later, a barb will be attached to the end of the atlatl, which is how the thrower notches the spear to the atlatl when using it. The atlatl works as an extension to the arm, increasing the force that the thrower can transfer into the spear when throwing it. Watch this video to see Wayne making one and demonstrating the throwing-action:

In addition to this equipment, Wayne will also be making lacrosse sticks (baagaadaweginaatig) this week. The games will be held in February and are open to the public, so stay tuned for updates!

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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Ojibwe Winter Games