||July 5, 2009
Canada’s Oldest Birchbark Canoe is in New Brunswick First Nations Exhibit Now
oldest known birchbark canoe which went to Ireland
with a British officer 180 years ago is back home in
Fredericton New Brunswick as a part of a Beaverbrook Art Gallery Exhibition.
Fredericton was designated as the Cultural Capital of Canada
for 2009 so it is appropriate that a First Nations exhibition should be
featured there this summer. The St. Mary’s First Nations people -the
Maliseets- who built the
original canoe were in New Brunswick long before Fredericton was established.
The canoe currently on loan from the
New Brunswick Museum in St. John was one of 3
built by the Maliseets First Nation people for
British Lt. Governor Howard Douglas who took this one to Ireland. The canoe was
donated by the National University of Ireland in
Galaway in 1847 where it remained and eventually was
in a state of disrepair.
The canoe was brought to the
Canadian Museum of Civilization for repair a couple of
years ago. The canoe is called The Grandfather Akwiten
Canoe and was brought into focus when an Irish researcher
took an interest in it eight years ago and sent it to the Museum of Civilization
for restoration by Canadian First Nation builders.
Maliseets were not informed but descendants Kim Brooks and her family
heard about it and activated a claim for it. It looks as if it will be back in
New Brunswick possibly in a place of its own
connected to the original builder. It was quite an endeavour by the first
nation group with letters published in newspapers in Ireland.
The canoe recently arrived at the
Beaverbrook Gallery on loan from the
New Brunswick Museum for a native exhibition. A smudging
ceremony and drummings chanting and dance by the
Maliseet people welcomed the arrival..
After a few days of acclimatization the 6 metre canoe was unveiled and added to
a larger native exhibition which runs to August 31. The canoe will eventually
go back to the band if a location can be established or will be in the New
Brunswick Museum. It is a remarkable piece of craftsmanship
(Where the Tide Ends) Exhibition
The Beaverbrook exhibition features
New Brunswick First Nation Artists and craftsmen and celebrates their artistic
The multimedia exhibition is
curated by Terry Graff and native artist Alan
Siliboy. They visited various reserves across
New Brunswick to gather the art and crafts of
the people. There is a large scale photographic installation showing the native
way of life. The exhibition recognizes the legacy of the native people. The
exhibition is the first of its kind in the 50 years of the
basically eurocentric Gallery. It is a credit to
all concerned. The canoe is a major artefact in the exhibition and recognizes
the birchbark canoe in the early development of the
Canadian way of life.
The exhibition runs to
August 31st 2009. For further information contact
Google Beaverbrook Art
Photos as provided by
Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Heritage Perspective Home Page