Category Archives: Events

Carrying Our Heritage Forward – Lac du Flambeau Launch

The wiigwaasi-jiimaan is back in Madison after an eventful couple of days. It was a whirlwind trip to Lac du Flambeau as the canoe made its way back home to northern Wisconsin where this project began. We were honored to be just a small part of bringing the canoe back to Lac du Flambeau.

The day began at Wayne’s house, touching up the canoe and preparing it for the launch in Lake Pokegema. The northern Wisconsin sun was shining down on the birchbark for the first time since it was harvested nearly a year ago in Waaswaaganing. While at Wayne’s house, we took a few more photographs of the artist with his work.

With the canoe ready for launch, it was carefully transported to the Lac du Flambeau Public School School where a drum song was performed to welcome the canoe. Wayne then addressed the students and explained the project and reminded them of the importance of carrying their culture – their heritage – forward. As the students filed out of the gymnasium, they were able to walk up to, see, and touch the canoe. With banners in hand celebrating the seven teachings of respect, love, wisdom, truth, bravery, honesty, and humility, the students helped to walk the canoe from the school to Lake Pokegema. A drum song led the procession. Hundreds of students marched to the shores of Lake Pokegema as community members came out and joined the walk to the lake.

A short ceremony was held with students, teachers, community members, and honored elders in attendance. And then it was time. The canoe had already been placed in the water, waiting to finally be paddled. Wayne and Estabon, an ENVISION program student who assisted in harvesting the materials for the canoe and building the canoe while it was in Madison, paddled out onto Lake Pokegema. It was an amazing experience, a wonderful day, and an honor to be a part of and see all of the support for this project, carrying the culture and art form of birchbark canoe building forward.

Be sure to watch some of the wonderful footage from the day below:

And watch the full video of the event as recorded by the tribal photographer:


We write this a lot and we say this a lot but we can not stress this enough, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this project. Thank you to the Lac du Flambeau Public School. Thank you to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Thank you to the many donors. Thank you to the Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians for their continued support of this project. And of course, thank you to Wayne Valliere and the thousands of hands that touched this canoe. It’s been a year full of memories and good friends and we’re honored to have been able to share the entire process with you along the way. We hope to see many more birchbark canoes built in the future as this art form continues to evolve and to thrive.

So that’s the end of this canoe project. Kind of. We’ll be working on a permanent website and exhibition site to be hosted online at the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Culture and will announce that information here and on the Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: These Canoes Carry Culture Facebook page so be sure to stop by every now and again to see how things are progressing. 

Miigwetch to everyone who has been a part of this project!

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Events


Carrying Our Heritage Forward

Two hundred and twenty three miles. That’s the distance between Dejope Hall in Madison to the shores of Lake Pokegema in Lac du Flambeau. It’s also the distance that the canoe traveled yesterday in the (very well-padded) back of a truck. It’s the first time that the canoe has been in northern Wisconsin since its materials were harvested here in 2013.

All of the birchbark canoes that Wayne has worked on have at some point touched the waters here in Lac du Flambeau and this canoe will be no different. Students and staff from the Lac du Flambeau public school will be helping walk the canoe from the school to Lake Pokegema so that it can be launched around mid-day into the waters of northern Wisconsin.

If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and for more information, just check out the press release below. We’ll be posting updates to the Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: These Canoes Carry Culture Facebook page throughout the day and, of course, will be posting pictures and a short write-up here on the blog after the event.

We want to thank the UW-Madison Division of University Housing for generously helping facilitate the canoe’s trip up to Lac du Flambeau.


On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, Lac du Flambeau Public school students and staff will be carrying the traditional birchbark canoe built by Wayne Valliere and the ENVISION students from the school to the shores of Lake Pokegema, behind the Lake of the Torches Hotel in Lac du Flambeau. They will be accompanied by Tribal Elders, a drum and community members.

A video showcasing the project will be shown at the school at 11:15 am. The walk from the school to the canoe launch will begin at 11:45. The canoe will be launched following ceremonies at Lake Pokegema. The launch will take place between 12:15 and 12:30 pm.

The canoe was built in cooperation with The University of Wisconsin and will be permanently displayed at the new Dejope Residence Hall on the campus in Madison. Major funding for the project came from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

The project is part of an effort to learn about and honor Ojibwe culture and centuries old technological skill within the context of a contemporary public school. “These Canoes Carry Culture” began in the summer of 2013 when Valliere and ENVISION students gathered materials for the canoe in the traditional way. This project gave students an opportunity to be proud of the wisdom and knowledge of their ancestors and to see how they can gain an academic education without sacrificing that culture.

ENVISION is a middle school project based service learning program with Ojibwe culture at its heart.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 10, 2014 in Events


The Canoe Goes Home to Dejope

On Tuesday, May 27, the canoe made its way to Dejope Hall, where it will remain as an example of Ojibwe art. Wayne Valliere and his son,Jephrey, arrived in Madison to bless the canoe and paddle from the future site of UW Alumni Park to Dejope. In contrast to the initial launch back in November, the sun was shining and the spring weather helped welcome the canoe to Lake Mendota. Several community members and friends from campus came to take part in the ceremony. Around mid-morning, Wayne and Jephrey paddled along the shore to the Porter Boathouse.

Thanks to the Porter Boathouse for graciously allowing us use of the docks!

Upon arrival, we were able to portage the canoe to DeJope, where Wayne, the canoe, and the many generous donors were honored. Nearly 50 people joined us in celebrating the occasion in which Wayne, as well as Philippe COQUARD, spoke about the importance of the project to the continued understanding of indigenous cultures in Wisconsin and specifically at the University.

An amazing lunch followed, courtesy of UW Dining Services, as the canoe was mounted in front of the Four Lakes Market and dining area. Two signs accompany the canoe. One sign describes the project in both Ojibwe and English and documents the many important aspects of the building of the canoe including the tradition, culture, and construction that played such an important role over this past year. The other plaque acknowledges the artist and thanks the donors involved.

Special thanks once again to the following:

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

Their generous support throughout the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014 have made so much of this possible.

The canoe will be available to Wunk Sheek, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Native America student organization on campus.

Leave a comment

Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Events



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!

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Events


Ojibwe Birch Bark Canoe Launch

CanoeLaunchPoster2013Ojibwe Birch Bark Canoe Launch
Thursday, November 21 at 3:00 pm
Memorial Union Terrace

The intergenerational, intercultural, environmental arts project Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: These Canoes Carry Culture will reach its completion with a public canoe launching, Thursday, November 21, at 3:00 pm on the shores of Lake Mendota, beside the UW Memorial Union at the future site of the UW Alumni Park. Members of the public will be able to view the canoe, meet its makers, and observe and participate in the ceremonies that prepare it for its maiden voyage. Free event.

The innovative project brought Wayne Valliere (Mino-giizhig), of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians to the UW campus to construct a traditional Ojibwe birchbark canoe, a tool and object of beauty known in Ojibwe language as wiigwaasi-jiimaan. Mr. Valliere is an artist and Ojibwe language and culture educator at Lac du Flambeau Public School on the Lac du Flambeau Indian Reservation in northern Wisconsin. His residency in the Art Department began in September, but the harvesting and preparations for the canoe began as early as last spring. The canoe launching will represent the culmination of hundreds of hours of careful preparation and work.

Wayne Valliere sees the canoe project as a way to pass on Ojibwe heritage to a new generation. Valliere first began learning about canoe building from an Ojibwe elder when he was only fourteen years old. His fascination with the art and ingenuity of his ancestors led to a lifelong passion to preserve and pass on the traditions of his people. “I’ve made my life about keeping our traditional ways, and bringing back our traditional ways, so that they will be a part of our tribe’s life in coming generations. “ At the same time, Wayne has been eager to share his people’s traditions with the many people who visit the wood shop daily to check on the progress of the canoe or who follow the process via the Internet. As he notes: “A lot of people from a lot of different cultures have helped on this canoe, and that is important.”

Central to the project was the involvement of youth from the Lac du Flambeau Reservation as well as from the Goodman Community Center in Madison. Students helped in the harvest and processing of the materials for the canoe—white cedar, birch bark, spruce roots, and pine pitch—and assisted Mr. Valliere and University of Wisconsin students and faculty in the canoe’s construction at the Wood Shop of the University of Wisconsin Art Department, on the top floor of the Humanities Building on the UW campus.

Tom Loeser, chair of the Art Department, was pivotal in planning and realizing Mr. Valliere’s work here in Madison. With the help of the Windgate Foundation, the Art Department established a series to bring practicing artists to the Wood/Furniture Shop to share their skills with department students and staff. Mr. Valliere is one of ten such visitors brought to campus over the last several years. Loeser states: “We see the residency as a way to highlight alternative ways and understandings of materials and ways to generate form. Having visitors like Wayne on campus enhances our curriculum by exposing students to novel ways of generating objects, ways that they may not have encountered before.” Both graduate and undergraduate art students have participated in the harvesting and construction process.

Tim Frandy, outreach specialist at the UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity has also been closely involved in the project from its outset. According to Frandy: “This project brings the University and Native community members together under the common cause of improving the health and well-being of youth. Not only does the project offer the youth who are involved a healthy dose of physical exercise, it also advances students’ cultural and social well-being. It encourages them to participate in activities that strengthen the traditional culture and sense of identity in their communities.”

Students from the Goodman Community Center’s Seed to Table program have also collaborated on the project. Seed to Table is an innovative education program focusing on urban agriculture and culinary arts. As Keith Pollock of the Goodman Community Center explains, the Seed to Table program focuses on natural products and has a strong multicultural focus, making the birch bark canoe project a natural interest. Goodman students will share in a traditional Ojibwe feast prepared by the Lac du Flambeau students and teachers on the day of the launch.

Students of the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies (CLFS) have helped in the harvesting and construction of the canoe as well. They have also produced a film record of the building process, sharing images and video with the public daily on a Facebook page and website that they designed (

According to CLFS professor Tom DuBois, the project fits well with the ideals of public humanities and engaged research. “We are helping create and document an artwork that not only celebrates but sustains Ojibwe culture in our state. This canoe reminds us of the central importance of birch bark canoes of this kind in the history of our region. But the project also demonstrates the vibrant Native cultural traditions that are alive and well in our state today.” The website and Facebook page have attracted thousands of visitors, some from as far away as Alaska, Australia, Japan, and Finland, and reflect the UW’s ongoing commitment to humanistic research that reaches far beyond the walls of the University’s classrooms and facilities.


For further information, contact Tom Loeser ( or Tom DuBois (


The project has been supported by the Windgate Foundation, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, The UW Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer, the Brittingham Foundation, the Collaborative Center for Health Equity, the Department of Art, the Department of Comparative Literature and Folklore Studies, the American Indian Studies Program, the Wunk Sheek student organization, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, Goodman Community Center and the ENVISION program of the Lac du Flambeau school district.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Events


Tags: , , ,

Wayne Valliere Dane County Food Summit

Tonight, Wayne Valliere will be speaking at the Dane County Food Summit at the Fitchburg Public Library from 6 to 7:30pm. The Dane County Food Summit has been organized by the Dane County Food Council since 2005.


Wayne and several other speakers, including growers from Thailand and Nicaragua, will be speaking about their respective organizations and how their work connects them to the land and to the future. Speakers will also discuss the different challenges facing their organizations and ways in which they are working to overcome those challenges.

Local food will be provided from 5:30 to 6pm by Liliana’s. Please join Wayne and many others as they discuss the importance of food to their local cultures!

Fitchburg Public Library
5530 Lacy Road
Fitchburg, WI 53711
(608) 729-1760

October 24th  5:30 pm – 8 pm

Registration fee: $10 at the door

More information:
2013 Dane County Food Summit: Connecting with the Land

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Events


Visiting Artist Colloquium

1208845_398054226984541_906954903_nThe Visiting Artist Colloquium kicked off the year with Wayne Valliere presenting his work on the birchbark canoe as artist-in-residence for the fall 2013 semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wayne spoke about the history of the Ojibwe in the region as well as the process of building a birchbark canoe. As an Ojibwe teacher, artist, and community leader from Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, Wayne discussed the importance of birchbark canoe building from a cultural standpoint and also from a health standpoint. He explained the work and subsequent exercise that is necessary to build a canoe is an important benefit to community members who learn the tradition of birchbark canoe building. The presentation ended with several questions from the audience.

Thanks to everyone who came out for our first lecture with Wayne in the Chazen! Look for more opportunities to see Wayne speak here and on our Faecbook page: Wiigwaasi-Jiimaan: These Canoes Carry Culture, and, of course, feel free to stop by the woodshop on the seventh floor of the Mosse Humanities Building.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 13, 2013 in Events