Giizhig: White Cedar

Northern white cedar is used for many parts of the canoe, most importantly the bimikwaanaatigoon (gunwales), the waaginaag (ribs), the inini-bagoog (manboards), and the waaganaawinzh (stempieces). Cedar is also used for making the sheathing that prevents passengers from placing their feet directly onto the birchbark skin of the boat. Cedar is naturally resistant to rot, and straight grained cedar can be bent exceptionally well after soaking and steaming.

Wayne looks for mature trees that have grown straight (i.e., not twisted) and that do not have side branches (which cause knots) for at least a length of five feet. When a suitable tree is felled, a workable length of trunk is taken and split repeatedly to produce a series of thick rough-cut boards. By splitting the trunk pieces with a hatchet or by hand, Wayne ensures that the grain runs continuously from one end of the board to the other. This continuity of grain will prevent the boards from cracking during the bending process, and over time as they age. Although the boards are initially split by hand, Wayne then uses an electric planer to reduce the width of each board to a workable thickness. Lower quality cedar stock is planed down even thinner to form the sheathing. Traditionally, this process was done using the waagikomaan (crooked knife), which is still an essential tool during many parts of the canoe-building process.

As with the birch, the parts of the cedar that are not used in the boat are left to dry out in the forest. As Wayne says, “The forest is my lumber yard; I can go back to that tree later and harvest the things I need from it at that point, like wood to make my ricing sticks.”

Watch Wayne Valliere and Tim Frandy split a log into a plank

Click on the pictures for more details!

The inini-bagoog (manboards), also of white cedar, are essential structural features of the canoe that also provide a place for expressive statements. They hold the canoe’s gunwales in place and anchor the stempiece of the canoe. Wayne uses the manboards as a place to display his clan identity and to celebrate some of the rich mythic symbolism that pervades traditional Anishinaabe life. In the bow he burns a bear (his own clan, inherited from his father), and in the stern he burns a turtle (the clan of his mother).

Click on the pictures for more details!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: