By James Raffan, Director of External Relations

Even though I’ve been associated in an intimate way with The Canadian Canoe Museum since its birth in Peterborough in the 1990s, when the Adopt-an-Artifact program was launched a few years back, I just had to get in there and play—to support the museum but also to do something that kindles a memory from a long time ago. The canoe I adopted was a beautiful 26’ Haida dugout made in Massett, Haida Gwaii, by artist and master carver, Victor Adams. It’s a highly significant cultural expression that I wrote about in my book, Bark, Skin and Cedar (Harper Collins 1999, 211-222) but going the extra step and adopting this canoe—and in doing so assisting the museum with the long term care of the vessel—this is this story from the book that I think about every time that canoe comes to mind. For a little context, the canoe was making its way from Massett to Camp Kandalore in the summer of 1972. As a staff member at this camp, owned by Museum Founder, Kirk Wipper, I was one of those charged with the responsibility of paddling the canoe (supported by two North canoes) from Toronto to Minden, up the Trent-Severn Waterway, with a bunch of senior campers from Kandalore. It was all going well, until we got wind-bound on Sturgeon Lake. Picking up the story from the book, the saga continued as follows:

“Seated on the shore in the sunshine, we watched the wind continue to blow and the waves continue to roll by us. Time ticked by. The campers got restless, and it became quite apparent that, unless we did something to make headway, we were going to be the crew responsible for knocking the whole escapade off schedule. Hence, driven by that pressure, and the need to do something creative to break the monotony, we procured three long poles which we used to lash the three canoes together: the Haida in the middle with a North canoe outrigger on both sides. And off we struck, into the evening sun.

By the time we turned north around Sturgeon Point, heading to the head of Sturgeon Lake at Fenlon Falls, it was pitch dark. By then the water was calm, but we had done so well in the trimaran configuration that we continued on, buoyed by the adventure of the whole day. But the boys were getting decidedly fatigued, and hungry, cranky even.  So, in the best of summer camping spirit, we sang a few songs—voyageur songs from the camp song book that everyone knew by heart. Paddling through the darkness, singing in rhythm, eighteen paddlers in three canoes, lashed together on the water, someone yelled, ‘Shhhhhhhh. Somebody is calling.’ For a second, it occurred to me that the calling could not possibly be directed our way because here we were, in the dark, well behind schedule, approaching a place that none of us had been before in a dugout canoe from Queen Charlotte Islands (now and forever ‘Haida Gwaii’). But we dipped along in silence anyway, and the voice rang out again, this time to everyone’s comprehension. Wafting across the star-sprinkled water came the memorable question ‘Do you know Kirk Wipper?’

Well, as a matter of fact, we did know Kirk Wipper, and to tell the caller so, turned our unusual rig shoreward and headed in where friends of Wipper’s, who knew we were coming by … sometime … produced a feast of buns and hot soup, gallons of milk and hot chocolate, and a lawn on which to camp for what was left of the night.”

That’s what makes me smile and why I wanted to show that particular canoe a little extra love through the Adopt-an-Artifact program. There are all kinds of watercraft up for adoption that might give you a similar feeling for different reasons in addition to joining the growing group of friends and supporters helping the museum realize its ambitious future plan. Please read our Case for Support.

The museum is committed to both the preservation of the cultural artifacts from the past but also to embracing changes that set all of the canoes in the collection in a generative and equitable cross-cultural context in which our First Nation, Métis and Inuit partners are full players and partners in the design and creation of our policies and programs, including Adopt-an-Artifact!

Now, it’s easier than ever to adopt an artifact from the comfort of your own home. Shop online at our Tumblehome Shop today!