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Son of a Birch!
December 13, 2010 8:51 AM   Subscribe

250-year-old birch bark canoe found in barn to be returned to Canada. While we are on the subject, you could do worse than to spend an hour today watching this fascinating 1971 documentary on a Birch Bark Canoe builder. (Not terribly often you come across a video captioned in Cree.) More YouTube Birch Bark Canoe building goodness.
posted by spock (27 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Love this kind of shit.
posted by Melismata at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2010


Fantastic. Thanks.
posted by rotifer at 9:04 AM on December 13, 2010


This is so strange. I was gonna post the builder video today, even though I knew nothing of the barn.

The Survival of the Bark Canoe by John McPhee is a lot of fun.
posted by OmieWise at 9:05 AM on December 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Lt Enys sailed from Falmouth in a packet ship to join his regiment in Canada to relieve the city of Quebec, which was under siege from the Americans,’ said NMMC boat collections manager Andy Wyke. ‘He fought many military campaigns and toured the area for his personal interest – discovering this canoe along the way. It’s incredible to think its legacy has been resting in a barn in Cornwall all this time.’

Lt. Enys was the real, living blood enemy of America's founding fathers. He sailed to Canada to deprive Americans of their God given natural rights to liberty - and then he took some time off and bought a canoe off one of the locals.

Awesome.
posted by three blind mice at 9:29 AM on December 13, 2010


I'm really not sure how to interpret your comment TBM? Serious? Sarcastic? (there are less charitable readings as well but I'll forgo those)


Anyway, 250 years is quite a length of time, the thing is older than the US Constitution.
posted by edgeways at 9:35 AM on December 13, 2010


Magnificent. As an American with familial roots in both Canada & among the Cree, let me just say this makes me proud of all 3 for some reason.
posted by priested at 9:42 AM on December 13, 2010


Those were the days - when you took home the ultimate Canadian souvenir, a whole canoe (and then, just like souvenirs throughout the ages, you left it out back with your other crap).
posted by ssg at 9:45 AM on December 13, 2010


TBMs outrage seems a bit silly when it could be: "White men sailed to the Americas to enslave blacks and deprive the natives of their God-given natural rights to liberty."
posted by spock at 9:50 AM on December 13, 2010


At my wife's family farm in New Brunswick, there is a stand of white oaks that the indians used to cut to make baskets. When her (loyalist) family moved there after the American Revolution (after having been kicked out of Boston) they "let" the local native population continue to use that stand. After a few years the indians were forced to repatriate farther inland and had to leave the lands they'd inhabited for countless generations. They stopped their canoes at the landing there at the farm to make some final baskets for their journey into the unknown. To show their thanks for the kindness my wife's family showed them then and over the years, they made them a fine and sturdy basket, which one of the family members placed in the barn...

...where it still sits untouched some 200 years later.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Anyway, 250 years is quite a length of time, the thing is older than the US Constitution.

The US Constitution is itself based on the 10 commandments which is much older.
posted by Bonzai at 10:07 AM on December 13, 2010


please note, Bonzai... that was your 666th comment in Metafilter.. just sayin'
posted by HuronBob at 10:10 AM on December 13, 2010


Anyway, 250 years is quite a length of time, the thing is older than the US Constitution.

Here's a slightly older rowboat.
posted by clarknova at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Anyway, 250 years is quite a length of time, the thing is older than the US Constitution.

The US Constitution is itself based on the 10 commandments which is much older.


I'm sorry Bonzai, but what has that to do with the price of apples? Not only is it on it's face a patently silly assertion, but the Decalogue where it overlaps with the Constitution is just so... vague. You might make a stronger assertion that the Constitution is "based on" Christianity/The Bible (I would still disagree), but that is like saying the Constitution is based on the 'Iroquois Confederation'. To be sure there are similarities, and overlap, but claims of "based on" needs much more than some random assertion without credible cites and evidence.

Now.. what I said was the Canoe is older than the US Constitution (not the Bible, not the Decalogue, not your Aunt from Greensville). That Khufu ship clarknova linked to, now that is older than the Bible... older than the Torah as well.
posted by edgeways at 10:48 AM on December 13, 2010


Back in December of 1967 I met a First Nations canoe builder somewhere near Quebec City, he called himself Chief Gros-Louis, if I remember correctly. He told me and my two French -from France, not Quebecois- companions that he really hoped things escalated between the Separatistes and the Anglos so that the Indians could jump in and kick them all out. Pipe dreams...
posted by mareli at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2010


Loved the video of the Cree gentleman making the canoe, thanks.

The ten commandments in a birch-bark canoe thread? Go team.
posted by maxwelton at 10:57 AM on December 13, 2010


Chief Max Gros-Louis?
posted by spock at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2010


OK, so I watched the whole NFB video during my lunch hour. Fantastic stuff! Love how the kids are all crowding around "whatcha doing, Grandpa?" "grrr" "nevermind, Superfriends is on! See ya!"
posted by billcicletta at 11:06 AM on December 13, 2010


Spock, that looks about right. Max Gros-Louis seemed like an old man to me then, but I was 17. I do remember the snowshoes.
posted by mareli at 11:18 AM on December 13, 2010




Mareli: A photo of him much younger.
posted by spock at 11:30 AM on December 13, 2010


Another 18th century canoe story: John Ledyard, one of the first students at Dartmouth College, got tired of school and built his own 50 foot dugout canoe, a skill he had learned while living with the Iroquois. He then paddled it down the Connecticut River to the ocean, never to return. Every May, Dartmouth's Ledyard Canoe Club runs a trip to the sea to commemorate it. (I was on it when I was a senior there--took a week.)
posted by A dead Quaker at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Enys fought on the side of the British against the American Continental Army at the battle of Quebec. This was in 1775 - a year before the declaration of independence was written (and way long before the U.S. Constitution was ratified). This was even before Benedict Arnold turned coat. The war of Independence was already in full swing. The Continental Army under Benedict and Ethan Allen taking the British guns at Ft. Ticonderoga and then turning north towards Montreal surprised the British, but the fun stopped when they met regular army troops left behind by the British at Quebec. The Americans lost the battle - their first of the war - they laid siege to the city and were eventually removed entirely from the Canadian provinces. This is all rather fundamental to American (and Canadian) history.

So the little canoe that the Lt. Enys picked up during his exploits is a tangible link to that history which is much more interesting than ending up in some wooden boat museum.
posted by three blind mice at 12:17 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every May, Dartmouth's Ledyard Canoe Club runs a trip to the sea to commemorate it.

This isn't quite the same, but when I was learning how to kayak at Hampshire College, we had a recurring joke (fostered by our instructors who had friends at Dartmouth), that we should paint "Dartmouth Outing Club" on the bottom of our boats, since we spent so much time upside down.
posted by OmieWise at 12:19 PM on December 13, 2010


I was being facetious.
posted by Bonzai at 12:45 PM on December 13, 2010


Fantastic post. I've longtime been a fan of McPhee's book, and was happy at the 16 minute mark of the video, to recognize the 'crooked knife' being so expertly wielded.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:18 PM on December 13, 2010


I'm getting incredible Heideggerian kicks out of this. Thanks for posting.
posted by quoquo at 7:55 PM on December 13, 2010


I'm very impressed by their generosity in offering the piece to our museum
posted by canoehead at 11:43 AM on December 14, 2010


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