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!