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1The Bluebird was acquired by Kirk Wipper and transported from British Columbia back to Ontario on the roof of his pick-up truck. It is the largest canoe in the collection at 53 feet 8 inches in length. The canoes origins trace back to a rich history of Coast Salish dugout canoe racing on the United States’ and Canada’s Western Coasts. This particular canoe would have been raced by an eleven person crew and even at its length, would have been required to make sharp turns during a race.

The Bluebird was carved by Elder and Master Carver Hwunumetse’ (Simon Charlie, 1920-2005) from Duncan, British Columbia. Later in life he encouraged and taught heritage, culture and traditions to both First Nations and non-First Nations alike. Charlie was passionately focused on the preservation of his peoples traditions, language, arts and culture. He was dedicated to passing on this knowledge to younger generations by mentoring young artists and teaching them traditional designs and methods. Read the rest of this entry »

Long before there were movie theatres, roller rinks or drive-ins teenagers courted in canoes. During the early 1900s young men would take their best girl canoeing for romance and the opportunity to spend some quality time away from parents and chaperones. Canoeing was the thing to do.

canoedling

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A post by Museum volunteer, Megan Meloche …

This is my first time. I am inside a dugout canoe. It rocks back and forth dancing with the Pacific Coast waves. A fog has settled over us making the shoreline impossible to see, but I know it still must be there. It is cooler than normal for spring and a chill has crept its way into my bones. They begin to ache. I must not move. I must be still, quiet, invisible like the shoreline. Deep in the fog I hear the blowhole spray of a Grey Whale. Goosebumps have found a home on my arms, my heart quickens. The sound is haunting the first time you hear it so close.

As I look around the other the men are calm, patient, ready and alert. Then it comes. My eyes widen as I gasp in the wet cool fog around us. The whale’s size is startling, as nearly 35,000 pounds of mammal comes hurdling out of the water near our canoe. It seems to hover in mid air before crashing back down into its ocean home; waves send our canoe rocking from side to side. We settle our vessel and I realize my heart feels like it may leap from my chest. I can hear it pounding in my ears. A strong hand finds my shoulder, squeezing it, reaffirming that we will be fine.  I must relax. We must wait for the next whale. I am a whaler. This is my first time.

This may have been the experience of a young boy on his first whale hunt off British Columbia’s coast. The Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island’s West coast are traditional whale hunters. Historically whaling served important social, spiritual and ritual functions within the communities. One oral tradition, passed down through generations, noted that the grey whale saved the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples from starvation. This illustrates how central the grey whale is to the community’s culture and identity.

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