Birch Bark Canoe Project (2016)

Throughout the summer of 2016, a special canoe-building project slowly took shape at the Ely Folk School. Participants partook in free learning sessions as they experience the skills and stages in the birch bark canoe-building process.

Lead instructor Erik Simula has made more than a dozen traditional Ojibwe birchbark canoes. An interpretive artisan at Grand Portage National Monument, he has taught at North House Folk School and other venues to audiences of all ages and experiences. One of the canoes that he crafted and paddled throughout the BWCAW was on display in the Ely Folk School. Erik was supported by a crew of selected volunteers who assisted in the building project.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday evening, the canoe was outdoors beside the Ely Folk School where interested crafters could drop in to experience the traditional building process — from site preparation to paddling the finished canoe.

Each birch bark canoe has many stages of construction. Some related courses focused on tasks, such as: preparing the site, harvesting the birch bark, and shaping the ribs. An opening ceremony was held on May 4th to honor the Native American process.

Several classes were held over the summer related to the project, including Birch Bark Canoe Design, Canoe Bark Techniques, Lacing Hull Seams, Canoe End-Frame Construction, Birch Bark Field Harvest, and Paddling Bark Canoes.

Read more about the launching of the canoe in our blog.