The birch bark canoe is an Indigenous symbol of reconciliation, says master canoe builder Chuck Commanda.
Mosaic Edition witnessed the master canoe builder round up the ribs of the traditional water vehicle during the just concluded Celebration of Nations in St. Catharines.
During the settlement period, the canoe allowed Europeans to come further inland faster than they would have.
“It is historically our family vehicle. I like to see more of them on the waters and more of our people building them now.”
Commanda said, “It is more of a tool for reconciliation. We are reconciling with each other and reconciling with our selves.”
“We are reconciling with our present and our past. This is an important tool I find in reconciliation.”
He noted that everyone in Canada could relate to the canoe as a historical icon of the country.
Chuck Commanda plans to be in the Guinness World Records by building the longest birch bark canoe.
“The record so far is 26 feet long. I want to go 37 feet,” he said.
“This will fulfill a desire in me to have the biggest one on the planet.”
When asked during the interview to say a few words in his local language, he replied that he lost his language during the residential school program.
“Unfortunately, I do not speak my language. I lost the language because of residential school. There are people who still speak the language. In order for us to learn, we have to go for immersion.”
“There is not any group anymore that speaks fluently. This is part of the reconciliation.
“Reconciling with our selves so that we can be able to forgive. The canoe is helping to reintroduce the past teachings.”
Chuck Commanda is from Kitigan Zibi, Québec.