This project documents the creation of a traditional Anishinaabe birchbark canoe by Ojibwe master birchbark canoe builder Wayne Valliere during his stay at Northwestern University in October 2021. A class of undergraduate students studying journalism and/or environmental policy and culture under the instruction of Professor Patty Loew all contributed to this project.
Northwestern is a community of learners situated within a network of historical and contemporary relationships with Native American tribes, communities, parents, students, and alumni. It is also in close proximity to an urban Native American community in Chicago and near several tribes in the Midwest.
The Northwestern campus sits on the traditional homelands of the people of the Council of Three Fires, the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Odawa as well as the Menominee, Miami and Ho-Chunk nations. It was also a site of trade, travel, gathering and healing for more than a dozen other Native tribes and is still home to over 100,000 tribal members in the state of Illinois.
It is within Northwestern's responsibility as an academic institution to disseminate knowledge about Native peoples and the institution's history with them. Consistent with the University's commitment to diversity and inclusion, Northwestern works towards building relationships with Native American communities through academic pursuits, partnerships, historical recognitions, community service and enrollment efforts.
Wayne Valliere: Building a Birchbark Canoe
by Kaila Nichols, Eddie Peabody, Jorja Siemons and Koji Taylor
For three weeks, Wayne Valliere built a birchbark canoe at Northwestern University as an artist in residence. He is one of only a few Ojibwe master builders in North America. While building, he shared the importance of maintaining this part of Anishinaabe culture and the lessons it teaches.
Listen to full episodes with transcriptions on SoundCloud
Ishkweyaang-jiimaan is the Ojibwe term for the stern of the canoe. It represents the past. When a Native American artist-in-residence visited campus this October to share the Ojibwe tradition of birchbark canoe building, the project reflected on Northwestern University’s past in relation to Indigenous people.
Narrated by Alex Knapper
Waaganigaanan is the animate Ojibwe term for the ribs of the canoe. Canoe ribs provide the vessel structure; similarly, indigenous-led organizations, CNAIR and NAISA, have grown to take on a supportive role for indigenous people on campus. In this episode, hear about how the canoe project is one piece of a growing indigenous presence at Northwestern.
Narrated by Emma Stein
Niigaan-jiimaan is the Ojibwe term for the bow of the canoe. It represents the future. Now, we look ahead to what is in store for the finished birchbark canoe and Native-led Northwestern organizations, CNAIR and NAISA.
Narrated by Montserrat Vazquez-Posada
Wiigwaasi-jiimaan in Three Dimensions
Explore a 3D model of the canoe (desktop browser recommended)
by David Deloso
"The Birchbark that Recieves a Kiss"
See and hear the names of the canoe's parts in both Anishinaabe and English
by David Deloso and Alex Harrison
Website designed and developed by David Deloso