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Birchbark canoe builder at work at Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough

The Peterborough Examiner
September 19, 2017

One of Canada’s few remaining birchbark canoe makers will be constructing his craft at the Canadian Canoe Museum for the next two weeks.

Chuck Commanda, 57, is building a 16-foot traditional Kitigan-Zibi-style birchbark canoe.

He started working on the boat in the museum’s gallery on Monday, unrolling the birchbark to stretch it across a long table.

Commanda is from Kitigan-Zibi, Que., about 390 kilometres northeast of Peterborough.

He was introduced to canoe making at a young age, helping his grandparents to first craft a canoe when he was just 10 years old.

The late Mary and William Commanda were Algonquin canoe builders and elders.

Several canoes they constructed are on display at the Canadian Canoe Museum on Monaghan Rd.

When Commanda first toured the museum, he was blown away to discover the museum had so many of his grandparent’s canoes.

“It kind of gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside,” he said.

Though canoe making is in Commanda’s blood, he stopped crafted them for a while to pursue other things.

“Like every other young person, you always think the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence – that’s what I thought,” he said.

But he found his way back to the craft after graduating from anthropology at Dalhousie University.

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