Hundreds of students are involved in the project (Connor Trembley - Kelowna Capital news)

Canoe carving project helps to revitalize Okanagan First Nations’ culture

Hundreds of students have helped to carve out the two canoes in West Kelowna

A canoe carving project is well underway with the help of students at Mount Boucherie Secondary School (MBSS) and the Central Okanagan Indigenous Education Department.

Hundreds of students have been helping to chip away and carve out two 21-foot canoes from cottonwood trees at MBSS over the past two weeks.

While it’s not known exactly when the canoes will be completed with the recent suspension of school classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SD 23 board chairperson expects the project to be done in the near future.

READ MORE: Large crowd gathers to remember Westbank First Nation veterans

Marchand Frank, one of the main canoe carvers, said the project is helping to revitalize Okanagan/Syilx First Nations’ culture.

“While every Okanagan First Nation is focusing on bringing back the language culture, I’m focused on bringing back the canoe culture,” said Frank.

“Canoes have been a staple source of transportation for First Nations back in the old days. They’ve helped to transport food, people and Elders to different First Nation communities.”

Once the canoes are completed, Frank said he hopes to use them in sporting events to bring more First Nation and Central Okanagan communities together.

“Students from several school districts will be using these canoes on Okanagan Lake once they’re finished,” said Frank.

“I’m hoping there will be some challenges and canoe races between the school districts. I could provide moose and deer meat or dried fish as prizes for the students.”

To help complete the project, students are using an adze to chip away and hollow out the canoe’s wooden frame.

MBSS student Anastasia Voytovych said the project is helping her to develop real hands-on skills.

“Carving is helping to give more control of the tools used to make the canoe,” said Voytovych.

“That includes making the canoes’ borders straighter and carving the canoe smoother.”

Both canoes will be coated with a fibreglass resin once they’re completed to help preserve them.

Some pictographs will also be drawn on the canoes to help showcase Okanagan/Syilx First Nations’ culture.


@connortrembley
connor.trembley@kelownacapnews.com

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