Birch Bark Canoe

Together, let’s build a canoe!

Reimagine your relationship with Indigenous people by taking time to learn and assist in the construction of a birch-bark canoe right here on campus. From January 24 to March 23, 2017, the community came together to experience the sharing of teachings and stories with Marcel Labelle, a proud Métis and Algonquin person who has conducted canoe-building projects across academic institutions in Ontario.

By taking part in this reconciliation project, all students and University of Ottawa community members, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, had the chance to connect with Indigenous knowledge and the preservation and articulation of Indigenous ways of knowing. This event was also open to Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals and groups.

This unique cultural and learning experience has taken place in the couch lounge of the University Centre (next to Portraits Now) and is now being displayed in the Morisset Library.



Marcel Labelle: sharing the knowledge

Marcel Labelle is a proud Algonquin and Metis husband, father and grandfather. He grew up in Mattawa, a small town in Northern Ontario and spent most of his childhood on the trapline. This is where he learned how to live with and from the forest.

Marcel shares Anishinabae knowledge through birch bark canoe building. He is recognized as a senior artist by the Ontario Arts Council since 2008 and has received OAC Aboriginal Arts Projects Grants every year since. Today, he is an Aboriginal Awareness speaker, an author, and offers special canoe building projects at Universities, Colleges and English and French School Boards in Northern and Southern Ontario. His work has received International recognition. Marcel teaches canoe building at Laurentian University’s School of Architecture in Sudbury.

He and his wife Joanne have recently moved back home to live in a log cabin they built themselves which they plan to share for many years to come.


Interesting facts

  • It can take up to ten tree inspections before finding the right birch bark.
  • Only a knife and hands can be used to peel the bark from the tree.
  • The removed bark has to be rolled up and carried out of the bush with a taupline.
  • The removed bark then has to be rolled out on a building frame.


Important notice

Permission must be given before any picture-taking. Please seek consent from Marcel Labelle.

Photographs, videos and audio recordings of this event may be produced and may include your recognizable image. By participating in the event, you therefore consent to being photographed, video-taped and audio-taped and you authorize the University to use any of these recordings for its activities and events, as well as for its print and electronic promotional material, including on the Internet via the University website or other social media websites.

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