Photography lesson

Local students receive a heritage lesson with the canoe project

Native birch bark canoe builder spent three weeks at St. Theresa Catholic High School to help students build a 12 foot birch bark canoe

A Midland high school recently hosted a master craftsman to help students build an authentic birch bark canoe.

Chuck Commanda, an Aboriginal birchbark canoe builder from Quebec, spent three weeks at St. Theresa Catholic High School to build a 12 foot birchbark canoe with the students.

“Most of the classes gathered in a large tent in the parking lot for half an hour at a time to help create the canoe,” said Jamie Dietrich, photography teacher at St. Theresa.

“About 15 students spent extended periods in the tent with Commanda as apprentices, learning the trade.”

According to Dietrich, Commanda learned the trade from his grandparents and had canoes built at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington and the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough.

“From Commanda, the students learned traditional canoe-building methods, a new respect for what the natural world offers and its indigenous values,” said Dietrich, who is also the school’s Outers club coordinator.

“Upon completion, school board officials, staff and eight of the apprentice builders held a canoe launching ceremony on the River Wye in Ste. Marie Park.

The canoe will now be proudly displayed in Sainte-Thérèse.

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