"These Canoes Carry Culture"

Native American Environmental Issues and the Media

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.

Land Acknowledgement

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.


Valliere stands in front of the unfinished canoe.

Master Anishinaabe Birchbark Canoe Builder Wayne Valliere shares talents with Northwestern

Valliere, a member of the Ojibwe nation, built a canoe that marked the first Anishinaabe canoe to touch Lake Michigan since the Treaty of Chicago in 1833

by Maya Mojica

Valliere sands the ribs of the canoe with a power sander.

Wayne Valliere, Master Canoe Builder

Valliere joined CNAIR to build a birchbark canoe, sharing his talents and knowledge of Indigenous traditions with the wider community.

by Yonjoo Seo

Volunteers carry the canoe on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Birchbark canoe building persists despite history of colonial erasure

Despite history of cultural erasure, the movement to revitalize Ojibwe values and traditions continues through canoe building

by Yunkyo Moon-Kim

Apprentices and Valliere stand with the completed canoe in front of Lake Michigan.

The Apprentice Experience

by Lexi Weintrob

Valliere and apprentices scrape the outer bark off of a long strip of bark.

Canoe Building 101

The Basics of an Anishinaabe Birchbark Canoe

by Natalie Lopez


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

Part 1

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

CNAIR Canoe Builder – Podcasts · Ishkweyaang-jiimaan: Exploring Native History at Northwestern University

Part 2

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

CNAIR Canoe Builder – Podcasts · Waaganigaanan

Part 3

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

CNAIR Canoe Builder – Podcasts · Niigaan-jiimaan: The Future of Native American Practices and Culture on Campus


screenshot of the interactive

Wiigwaasi-jiimaan in Three Dimensions

Explore a 3D model of the canoe (desktop browser recommended)

by David Deloso

diagram of the canoe

"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

Wayne and apprentice work on canoe

Photo Timeline

by Connie Deng, Michelle Liu and Julia MacCary

Website designed and developed by David Deloso