Birch Bark Canoe Launch


At the anthropology
department at UMass, we pride ourselves in
providing hands-on experiences for our students; but
usually not this hands-on. Today is the culmination
of a year-long project in which we’ve had Howard
Kimewon, a native Ojibwe speaker here, teaching
the Ojibwe language, which is an endangered language,
Tli and teaching lifeways and foodways with students
from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst
and from Amherst College. Throughout the year, Howard’s
been engaging the students in building a birchbark canoe. And for the students,
I think it’s just been a marvelous experience,
both the classes being able to engage with
Howard and, of course, being able to take a ride in
probably the first birchbark canoe that’s floated on
Puffer’s Pond or anywhere in the area for over 300 years. We’re going to launch it today. And it’s the very first
time in the water. It’s one of the first ones
ever in the United States that was put together
at a university level. We did a lot of language
with the students while we were doing this. Everything was all
done in the language. And it was an awesome year. It was beautiful. I really enjoyed it. [CHEERS] Baamaapii! Baamaapii! [CHATTER] [MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] Miigwech! [CHATTER] [MUSIC PLAYING] It’s been a very
special experience to go from the
beginning of the year when he first said,
oh, yeah, I brought the frame of a canoe
we can start building. And then to be sitting
on the water in it now is something really special. It’s very deep if
you would start to think about it–
this representation of the native people, the first
people who were on this land. And for the
University to welcome his teachings and his wisdom–
it’s just been incredible.

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