North American Indigenous Games·Photos

Connecting Indigenous Games through canoe heritage

“Maawandoon” is a traditional Ojibway term meaning “bringing us together.” “Jiimaan” is the word for “canoe.” Together they form the name and the mission of a unique Ontario-based collective called the Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective, which shares the art of birch bark canoe building to reconnect Indigenous people to the land through their canoe heritage.

Maawandoon Jiimaan brings unique mission to Ontario-based collective

Knives are a big part of the Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective. (Christopher Herodier)

"Maawandoon" is a traditional Ojibway term meaning "bringing us together."

"Jiimaan" is the word for "canoe." Together they form the name and the mission of a unique Ontario-based collective called the Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective, which shares the art of birch bark canoe building to reconnect Indigenous people to the land through their canoe heritage.

Members of the collective are building a six-foot model of a birch bark canoe at the cultural site of the North American Indigenous Games happening until Saturday in Toronto.

The collection

(Christopher Herodier/CBC News)

Wayne Bayer lays out wooden cedar frame on top of a sheet of birch bark. Members of the collective regularly offer workshops in Indigenous communities to teach people, particularly youth, the art of birch bark canoe building.

(Christopher Herodier/CBC News)

Rocks are laid on top of cedar frame and bark to give it an early structure. The Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective is based in Wikwemikong First Nation in the north-eastern section of Manitoulin Island.

(Christopher Herodier/CBC News)

Some of the materials used, from the birch tree comes the bark, from the spruce tree comes pliant roots and from the cedar tree comes the ribs, for planking and gunwales.

Mike Ormsby from Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario, another member of the Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective, explains how the canoe comes together. 0:48

Above video: Mike Ormsby from Curve Lake First Nation in Ontario, another member of the Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective, explains how the canoe comes together.

(Christopher Herodier/CBC News)

David C. Pawis of Wasauksing First Nation is the Elder of the collective. He says, "I've worked on small cedar canoes to the bigger ones that are used to paddle, as they should be used for."

(Christopher Herodier/CBC News)

The special tools and knives used in the art of birch bark canoe making. Members of the Maawandoon Jiimaan Collective needed special permission to bring the tools to the NAIG cultural site.

A full-size canoe built in 1980 by Algonquin elders William and Mary Commanda from Kitigan-zibi (Maniwaki) is on display at the NAIG cultural site. It is on loan from the collection of the Canadian Canoe Museum. 1:57

Above video: Mike Ormsby continues to explain how the canoe comes together and shows how the tools are used. Sealing pitch, a mix of bear grease and either black spruce gum or birch gum, is used mixed together to make the canoe water tight.

(Christopher Herodier)

A full-size canoe built in 1980 by Algonquin elders William and Mary Commanda from Kitigan-zibi (Maniwaki) is on display at the cultural site. It is on loan from the collection of the Canadian Canoe Museum.

About the Author

Christopher Herodier works at CBC North's Cree unit in Montreal. He is the host of the Cree language program Eyou Dipajimoon.