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Students build birch bark canoe for Eabametoong

The Grade 8 class at Algonquin Avenue Public School presented the canoe earlier this week.

THUNDER BAY – The hard work of the Grade 8 class at Algonquin Avenue Public School was on full display on Tuesday afternoon.

As part of the school’s year-end assembly, the class unveiled a birch bark canoe that they had been building since September.

The canoe was gifted to members of Eabametoong First Nation. It will be put on display in their new school when construction is complete in the coming years.

“It means a lot,” said Eabametoong First Nation band councillor Derek Atlookan. “This will help bring our self-esteem back up again.

“It was a hard thing that we went through when the school burnt down and this canoe will lift spirits up.”

Danielle Yellowhead, who is the education director for Eabametoong First Nation Educational Authority, echoed Atlookan’s comments.

“I feel emotional seeing this new canoe,” Yellowhead said. “It brings a symbol of hope that we will have a new school someday.

“We’re not sure where it will go just yet, but I want to have the students who built the canoe that are from Eabametoong to help us determine the location.”

Roman Nodin and Michael Whitehead were among the students that took part in the project and were proud of what they accomplished.

“I was really excited and really happy to finish this, especially since I am from Fort Hope,” Whitehead said.

“It took a long time, especially with the stitching,” Nodin added. “It takes about five minutes to do each stitching on the canoe and you have to do 25 on each side, but we managed to get it all done before the end of the school year.”

This is the second year in a row that the Grade 8 class at Algonquin Avenue Public School have built a birch-bark canoe.

The first canoe was donated to the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, which is also known as Manitou Mounds, in June 2023.

“We hope that the Grade 8 students remember this forever,” said Darren Lentz, who is the principal at Algonquin Avenue Public School.

“They picked up so many skills along the way and they see how a community comes together and builds something so beautiful in the time that they have.”

Next year’s Grade 8 class will be involved in another building project, though that group of students will determine what they will construct.

“We’ve done canoes, dogsleds and other traditional technologies,” Lentz said. “That decision will be entirely up to them.”