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Illustration by John Kricfalusi
Listening in All the High Places illustration by John Kricfalusi
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Tribute Canoe Project for Grandfather William Elder Commanda
Photo courtesyCalum's Day Media Productions Reportage by Phil Weir
After the Circle of all Nations workshop last Saturday,
on ideas of making progress on realizing Grandfather’s vision for Victoria Island I was alone and a man approached me. He said quite simply, “I would like to build a birch bark canoe on Victoria Island”. I told him such a thing sounded wonderful and so he explained to me that he had wanted to, and was planning to say the same thing to Grandfather William Commanda, - but he has left us.
Marcel wants to work with Chuck Commanda, who is William’s grandson, to make this canoe on Victoria Island. Also others will help such as perhaps Daniel Beauchanef, long distance paddler.
The location of the canoe-building will be between the walls in the open, low, east end of the old ruins of the Carbide mill, where the first light shines on a new day, just after the light of the Morning Star fades to light. For many years that structure has been described as unsafe or unclean, but the NCC and the People of Canada, via recent funding from the Federal Government, have just finished reinforcing the walls, fixing it all up, and making it into a very nice space to make a canoe. The fence currently around the building can be modified to ensure entry for Marcel and his crew, and to ensure security for the project. He will not need electricity.
As Marcel, myself and several others talked over the idea we realized that this would be a tribute canoe for William Commanda. What better tribute could there be than a birch bark canoe? The canoe will be built right there in the foundation of his dream, the Asinabka National Indigenous Centre. And someday, when the Centre is built, it will be brought up into the main part of the new building. It will stay inside the Asinabka Centre much of the time, but will also be brought out and actually paddled for ceremonies and special occasions.
When we all said goodbye to Grandfather in his lodge beside his house and his lake from last Wednesday to Friday when he was buried, he lay in a birch bark canoe. As Algonquin friends explained it to me, “He has now left us and gone on his journey to the spirit world”. But the light of the Morning Star still shines. I, like so many other people, want to learn much more about the knowledge and traditions of the Algonquin and other First Nations, Métis and Inuit of Turtle Island and beyond. The canoe is one of the greatest gifts, and as many have said, it is Canada. We are all in the same boat, eh. This tribute canoe, built on Victoria Island, Sacred site, will be a good way we can help remember him, his welcoming, his sharing, his inclusiveness, his love, his peace. And it will be beside the waters of Kitchissippi, by Chaudière, where the waters run, and do not forget.
Hopefully everyone, in every capacity, will be part of the consensus that already exists about a tribute canoe for William Commanda, built on Victoria Island, in the heart of what will become his realized vision for the Asinabka National Indigenous Centre. See links: