With all of the appropriate COVID-specific safety measures in place, the Canadian Canoe Museum started welcoming visitors back on June 25th. Local and regional visitors can once again experience the world’s largest collection of canoes, kayaks, and paddled watercraft. However, we know there are people across the country and around the world who are not able to travel to Kawarthas Northumberland and experience the museum in person. To help, we’ve created a series of videos that show the museum is not just a collection of objects but a keeping place for the stories the vessels carry.
In 1980, seasoned canoeist and famed Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot was paddling his beloved canary yellow canoe down the South Nahanni River in the North West Territories with a small party of friends. Unbeknownst to him, the adventure that lay ahead would be the inspiration for his next song.
The craftmanship of May Minto and the remarkable artistic expression of Robert Bateman represent a long partnership between artists and canoes. Whether painted on a rockface, canvas, or used in commercial advertisements, the canoe has certainly become iconic in Canada.
In many Indigenous communities, the complex work of creating a new canoe was and continues to be a powerful way to gather people together. In the 1970s and 80’s, William and Mary Commanda of Kitigan Zibi, Quebec were prolific canoe makers and prominent members of their community. Reputed to have made over a hundred birch bark canoes, the Commandas were instrumental in passing on the complex teachings that come from the canoe.