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The Courage Canoe--Gananoque Intermediate and Secondary School: Courage Canoe

Students in Mr. Alguire's Native Arts class and Mr. Running's intermediate class are working together to build a traditional birch bark canoe.

Smaller canoes

While we construct the larger canoe which symbolizes courage, we are also building smaller replicas.  Each canoe represents a character trait:

Responsibility, Resiliency, Respect, Perseverance, Fairness, Courage, Honesty, Empathy, Caring


GISS Trojans

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Canoe building

Canoe building


The courage canoe launch

Courage canoe

It is with great excitement that we announce our Courage Canoe Project.

Gananoque and the 1000 Islands is like no other place in the world...the beauty of the granite, pines and shimmering water are truly prized for today's inhabitants as they were for our Aboriginal Peoples for 1000's of years.

It is important to realize the beauty and the synergy of the land, water and people.

To help us understand this connection, we have established a great relationship with an Algonquin Craftsman; Chuck Commanda, who will work with and teach our students (grades 7-10) the process of creating a working piece of art--an authentic birch bark canoe.

For the next 4 weeks, students in Mr. Alguire's Native Arts class and students in Mr. Running's class will have an opportunity to work with Mr. Commanda and his wife Janet who are Algonquin (Anishnabe) to construct a 12 foot handcrafted birch bark canoe, and also 13 smaller model canoes.  These canoes will symbolize The Upper Canada District School Board's "Character Always" Virtues.

The large boat will be launched and paddled on a date close to National Aboriginal Day (June 21st)  This boat will be named "The Courage Canoe", to honour McKenna Modler, our grade 8 student that has bravely fought cancer and established McKenna's Dream Foundation.  Chuck and Janet are thrilled with the naming of this boat as it also honours one of the Seven Grandfather's Teachings.

As the construction of the canoe will be completed in strict accordance to Aboriginal Traditions, a sacred and integral part of the project is the smudging of the canoe and the tools used to construct the canoe.  Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place or an object of negative energies, sprits or influences.  The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins and then, either passing an object through the resulting smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place.  The spirit of the plant then purifies whatever is being smudged.

The students involved in the Courage Canoe Project will be able to observe the smudging ceremony, and with consent can be involved in the process.


Please follow our blog and our Twitter feed to watch as the process of paddling through time occurs at GISS over the next few weeks........

At the end of the first week

The Seven Sacred Teachings

The traditional concepts of respect and sharing that form the foundation of the Aboriginal way of life are built around the seven natural laws, or sacred teachings. Each teaching honours one of the basic virtues intrinsic to a full and healthy life.

Birch bark--we will use this to craft our canoe

The birch bark is soaked so that it doesn't crack when rolled out

Canoe construction

Using willow branches to create design work