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Labrador family begins building a Mi’kmaq canoe for The Canadian Canoe Museum

Collaborative Relations

Canoe being built in a workshop.
The canoe being built for The Canadian Canoe Museum begins to take shape. (Photo by Todd Labrador)

The Canadian Canoe Museum is excited to announce that the talented Labrador family has started building a new, ocean-going Mi’kmaq canoe for the collection.

Todd Labrador is a renowned birchbark canoe builder. He is joined in the building process by his daughter, Melissa, who will be visually documenting the build for the Museum. A canoe-builder and knowledge-holder herself, Melissa is the CCM’s Community Coordinator, helping to bring together information about Mi’kmaq canoe traditions to support the interpretation and care of Mi’kmaq watercraft at the Museum.

Also supporting the build are Melissa’s children, Todd’s wife Lori, and Todd’s sister Bonnie. This canoe is a family effort, and we are fortunate to have so many knowledge-holders creating this beautiful canoe. The Labradors are building the canoe in a workshop at Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia—if you will be down there this summer, stop in and say hello!

Mi’kmaq people hunted, fished and travelled on the ocean, as well as on rivers and lakes. Ocean canoeing requires navigating difficult currents and weather conditions. The adaptation of birchbark canoe technology to meet those conditions, and the deep knowledge required to survive and thrive in dangerous waters, is an important part of Mi’kmaq culture.

So far, Todd and his family have harvested bark, spruce root and pitch; tapered the gunwales; steamed and bent the ribs, and unrolled and shaped the BIG piece of bark for the main section of the hull. Now, the process of sewing together the pieces has begun!

Wood ribs of a canoe laid out on table.
Canoe ribs ready to go into The Canadian Canoe Museum’s new canoe. (Photo by Vernon Doucette)

“We are very honoured and excited to be building a canoe for the new Canadian Canoe Museum. This canoe will be built by our Labrador family,” shares Todd. You can also follow the process on Todd’s Facebook page, Todd’s Twitter or Melissa’s Twitter. We will share updates as the build progress (a few updates from Todd are shared below)!

Lastly, the Museum is grateful for the help of Collections Committee member Vernon Doucette, who is also supporting the visual documentation of the canoe build.

Learn more about the new exhibits in the new Canadian Canoe Museum, or how the Museum is working to honour the cultural stories and history held within the collection through our collaborative relationship process.

@canadiancanoemuseum@loricra15102457 @Mel7Labrador @GGCanada @donna_hatt

Birch bark canoe building, we have started a 21 footer

— Todd Labrador – One who dances on water (@toddlabrador77) July 8, 2022

Gunwales are in …next we install the side panels


— Todd Labrador – One who dances on water (@toddlabrador77) July 10, 2022

Bark prep…hot water…checking for rough sections and preping to trim bark@Mel7Labrador @louie_porta @TravelMediaCA @NG_PristineSeas @gloucester2013 @loricra15102457 @ITAC_Corporate @VoiceofTourism @globalhalifax @HfxStanfield @donna_hatt @battisctv

— Todd Labrador – One who dances on water (@toddlabrador77) July 11, 2022

So today was sew sew…Lots of visitors….nice to see everyone.@birchbarkcanoe

— Todd Labrador – One who dances on water (@toddlabrador77) July 14, 2022

Im very pleased with how quickly the spruce root sewing is going

Thanks to eveyone who has been stopping by to see/chat…

Thanks to family for helping..with this project@ParksCanada_NS

— Todd Labrador – One who dances on water (@toddlabrador77) July 16, 2022

We actually started taking some rocks out today…
A good day

— Todd Labrador – One who dances on water (@toddlabrador77) July 17, 2022
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The Canadian Canoe Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are situated on the Treaty 20 Michi Saagiig territory and the traditional territory covered by the Williams Treaties First Nations. The Canadian Canoe Museum also recognizes the contributions of Indigenous Peoples including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, in shaping this community and country as a whole.

As an organization that stewards the world’s largest and most significant collection of canoes, kayaks & paddled watercraft, we will honour and share the cultural histories and stories within the collection in all that we do.

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