There's no better way to connect to each other and to the land and to the water and to the sky and to all living things than by getting into the 'same boat' and 'pulling together' toward new possible futures.
With 16 seats in close proximity, a Montreal canoe is a wonderful place to have a 'floating conversation' about just about any topic under the sun. More often than not there was a happy hub-bub in the canoe as people got to know each other and shared the experiences of paddling together.
Connected by Canoe's handsome logo was designed in-house at the Canadian Canoe Museum by our Marketing and Media Relations Manager,Jessica Fleury.
John Good, Executive Director of the Greater Petrorough Community Foundation, looks on while Bill Lockington—instigator of the Connected by Canoe Project—sends the crew on their way from Peterborough with symbolic water bottles for the journey.
As we left Peterborough, Algonquin bark canoe builder, Stephen Hunter, brought along a model canoe his grandfather had made over 100 years ago that served as a wonderful talisman and reminder of the enduring canoe traditions in this nation of rivers (and river of nations). CHEX TV's Caley Bedore is reporting here on Connected by Canoe's departure from Peterborough.
City of Kingston Town Crier, Chris Whyman, with Kingston Mayor, Brian Patterson, welcomes the crew to Kingston at an event in the River Mill Restaurant organized by Tina Bailey, Executive Director of the Kingston and District Community Foundation.
First full day on the water. After blessing the canoe and the waters with smudge and tobacco gifts from each participant, everybody pitches in to put the canoe into the water at Lower Brewer's Lock.
Blessing for the meal in Seeley's Bay was a team effort between Algonquin Pipe Carrier, Chuck Commanda and Rev. Don Styles from the local United Church.
In all, more than 100 people attended the Connected by Canoe evening in Seeley's Bay hosted by the Seeley's Bay and Area Residents Association. The Community Hall was beautifully decorated with red canoes (one belonging to canoeing legend Omer Stringer). In attendance were students from Rideau District High School, along with Principal, Sharon Halliday and Acting Vice Principal, Will French, who spoke about their visions for the future of Canada. Dinner was cooked by Seeley's Bay Citizen of the Year, Ron Rudd, and served by enthusiastic volunteers from the Seeley's Bay and Area Residents Association.
Shaelyn Wabegijig opened the evening program in Seeley's Bay with a beautiful traditional Anishinaabe water song.
At our evening event in Seeley's Bay, Kristen Ungungai-Kownak took a moment to talk about life growing up in Nunavut before getting the entire room practising their throat singing.
After their individual performances at the Voyageur Dinner in Seeley's Bay Community Centre, Kristen Ungungai-Kownak explained that Inuit throat singing is normally done with two women. As a surprise for the crowd she said that she and Shaelyn had had a quick practise in the bathroom before the dinner and that they were ready for her first public performance.
Having Goh Iromoto, an accomplished paddler, filmmaker and drone pilot, along on the journey made for some unusual snapshots from the trip. Stay tuned to the Canadian Canoe Museum website for news on Goh's upcoming short film about Connected by Canoe that will be premiered at the Museum's 20th Anniversary Celebration in June.
Kristen's throat singing performance in Seeley's Bay was so engaging that Anne Marie Forcier from Rideau Tours met us at Chaffey's Locks the next day for a refresher course. She also brought wonderful red gingham picnic blankets to spice up our lunch on another overcast day.
At Chaffey's Locks we met up with our friend from Parks Canada, Annie Laurie, who had with her a group of summer students she was training who gave us a hand with moving the canoe.
Because it was early in the season and the Rideau Waterway officially closed to traffic, we portaged around all of the locks (Parks, as a partner in Connected by Canoe, were very kind in opening the washrooms at the lockstations for us). But because the system was wide open because of high water, there were places where instead of paddling on flat water held back by the various control structures along the way we actually experienced the Rideau River as it might have been in the pre-canal days with more current and actual small rapids in various places. So good to be travelling in a vessel made for river conditions just like that!
It was a wet and cloudy spring journey but there is nothing like an overcast sky to bring the vibrancy out of every colour of the rainbow. And with people keen to talk about the future of Canada under whatever circumstances, the weather only added moisture and dramatic effects to already vibrant conversations.
Following the traditions and ways of his grandfather, William Commanda, Chuck Commanda had much to say about how the canoe connects the builder to the land and to the ancient ways of the Algonquin People.
During our canoe-builder's-walk-in-the-woods near Westport, Chuck and Stephen showed us how to bless and thank a birch tree before removing just enough bark to allow the tree to continue to thrive.
The Connected by Canoe 'floating conversation' was very much aided during this season of near biblical rains and floods by the Canadian Canoe Museum's new van and trailer that allowed the crew to be moved by road when travel on the water was not possible.
Paddling the Rideau Waterway was for many of the Connected by Canoe participants a first-time experience and an absolute gem of a route through Canada's past, present, and future.
Unable to paddle for a second day due to dangerously high water throughout the Rideau Waterway System, through the kindness of the manager at the Best Western Hotel in Perth, we circled around a fancy boardroom table in the hotel to continue our discussions before moving on to Smiths Falls and our Home Show gig.
Coleman Murray Williams from Curve Lake First Nation took his turn on several mornings leading the blessing of the canoe and the waters with offerings of tobacco.
At each stop along the way, we introduced the crew and told a few stories from our 'floating conversation' before opening the floor to local voices. Here at The Table in Perth, hosted by the Community Food Centre, Plenty Canada, the Perth and District Community Foundation and Lanark Friends and Neighbours for Truth and Reconciliation, James is intoducing ColemanColeman Murray Williams from Curve Lake First Nation to say a few words to the 70+ people in attendance.
It was a touching moment to say goodbye in Perth to Stephen Hunter and Chuck Commanda, who had been an integral part of our journey and our discussions from the first day.
Chuck Commanda brought one of his fine bark canoes to our dinner at The Table in Perth and then surprised us all again when he and his partner joined us for the Ceremonial Leg of Connected by Canoe in Ottawa, paddling the same bark canoe!
If you're going to be setting up a bit of a guerilla exhibit at a Home Show, you might as well park in a place that draws maximum attention to entice possible attendees to come on in to chat up the paddlers.
In Smiths Falls we were hosted beautifully by the Town of Smiths Falls, Parks Canada and the Rideau Round Table for a dinner and evening program at the Parks Canada Offices right on the river at the centre of town. The fact that we arrived by road instead of by water ... because of the raging waters in the Rideau System ... was emphasized by the thrum of water coursing around the building where we had our dinner.
Connected by Canoe was hosted by the Sensational Town of Smiths Falls ... who reallly proved they were sensational by organizing a wonderful evening program and dinner with Parks Canada but also in figuring out how a bunch of paddlers, who were unable to paddle because of high water, might make good use of a rainy afternoon in Smiths Falls.
Thanks to Town of Smith Falls CAO Malcolm Morris and Economic Development Officer, Ingrid Bron, who co-hosted our wonderful evening in Smiths Falls, we were also able to respond quickly to their invitation to set up an impromptu Connected by Canoe exhibit at the Smiths Falls Home Show, which happened to be on the day we were in town..
Day Two of our off-the-river programming involved an impromptu Connected by Canoe Exhibit at the Annual Smiths Falls Home Show.
It was fabulous to be back on the water downriver from Smiths Falls. On arrival in Merrickville, we put the canoe in the water below the locks and did some paddling with some of the international students from Fulford Preparatory School.
Getting back on the water after two days of 'alternate programming' because of high water was a mixed blessing because what we were able to do off the water was fun and gave us opportunities for conversation that we wouldn't have had otherwise.
A welcome message in the dining room of Fulford Preparatory College, particularly Headmaster Kevin Farrell, who hosted us for meals and evening program during our stay in Merrickville. Special thanks as well to Merrickville Town Crier Michael Whittaker for welcoming us to Merrickville and joining us at for dinner and the blanket exercise.
The Kairos Blanket Exercise, facilitated by Vanessa McCourt, an Advisor from the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre at Queen's University, came at a perfect time in our journey insofar as the trust that had been built in the canoe fuelled a frank, honest and ultimately very illuminating discussion during the talking circle that followed the actual simulation.
Blanket Exercise co-facilitator Molly Claire Raffan, Residence Life Manager from Queen's University, plays the role of the European in a moving rendering of the Kairos Blanket Exercise involving Connected by Canoe participants along with staff and international students from Fulford Preparatory College in Merrickville.
We awoke to SNOW in Merrickville but this was not a reason to delay getting back on the water after a two-day hiatus from paddling.
In deference to the excellent intelligence we received from Parks Canada personnel regarding water levels, we opted to portage (sometimes by hand and sometimes with van and trailer) around the sections of river where washouts and surging currents made paddling unadvisable. The snow was something of a bonus effect to the exhilaration of getting back onto the water.
After a day on the water with rain, snow, high winds and uncertain skies, we turned the corner into Kempville Creek to paddle up toward the Clothier Mills Inn and were greeted by a pair of bald eagles, who we thanked profusely for their role in getting us back on the water after a two-day hiatus from paddling.
There's nothing like a spring snow/hail storm to sharpen the mind and focus the senses when you're paddling!
At the Kemptville Youth Centre, we joined right in with the available activities. Here, our stalwart Van/Logistics guy, Gary Running, is getting a pool lesson from 12 year old Audrey Corvin
While others were playing pool, foozeball and chatting with the Youth Centre patrons, with instruments set up on the centre's stage (which was the pulpit of the church that had been repurposed into the Youth Centre) Connected by Canoe paddlers morphed into the meanest blues band on the Rideau at that moment with Ron Whetung on drums, Jacob Rodenburg on rhythm guitar, Seamus McCastor on lead guitar and the inimitable, irrepressible Glen-The-Wailer-Caradus on harp.
After a wonderful spaghetti dinner and fun aat the Kemptville Youth Centre, the team repaired to the South Branch Bistro across from our hotel for an after-action review of our night at the Kemptville Youth Centre. Over snacks and cold refreshments, even lively playoff hockey on the big-screen TVs couldn't stop the continuing conversation about the future of Canada.
After a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, coffee, juice and toast back at the Kemptville Youth Centre, Manager Pat Henderson asked if the crew would pose for a snap on the front steps of the centre.
Making our way up river to the town of Kemptville was a bit of an adventure insofar as we barely made it under the last bridge because of the height of the water. Interestingly, by morning, the water had dropped a few centimetres and we breezed through with no trouble at all on the way back down.
Below the Kemptville bridge, we got an unexpected treat to run into a class of Outdoor Education students from the local high school, out in their canoes, as we made our way back down Kemptville Creek to rejoin the Rideau Waterway en route to Long Island Camp at Manotick.
The levels on the Rideau Waterway were definitely high!
Flood levels throughout our journey, provided some unique paddling opportunities (across fields and lawns covered with metres of water) that will not be available for paddlers on the Rideau later in the year.
For our campfire at Long Island Camp we learned (and practised) a host of traditional bush skills. Drawing on 15 years in a Kenyan refugee camp, Erick turned out to be the atlatl champion of the bunch. Between Erick and Coleman Murray Williamsthey even managed to get one of filmmaker Goh Iromoto's Goh-Pro (get it?) cameras attached to the spear, which was then hurling into the air at Long Island Camp ... providing an 'arrow's eye' view of the flight. Stay tuned for more of this creative footage when Goh's short film about Connected by Canoe will be premiered at the Canadian Canoe Museum's 20th Anniversary Celebration in Peterborough in June.
It was just the Connected By Canoe crew for our night at Long Island Camp in Manotick and we took advantage of the setting to have a bit of fun around an (indoor) campfire (because it was still freezing cold and raining). It was so great to have some of the hard working Cdn Canoe Museum staff, like Connected by Canoe Participant Coordinator,Katelynd Salmon , join us for at least part of the journey.
It's a waltz to end the night of music and fun at Long Island Camp. FYI, Kristen's Tee-shirt says "Seal is the New Black," JR's slogan is "Keep Calm and Paddle on" and the Inuktitut syllabics on the tights say "these are for style, warmth and definitely not for gratuitous fashion commentary on FB." — with Kristen Ungungai-Kownak
It wasn't until the morning of June 10th that we awoke to a strange bright golden ball in the eastern sky. Finally, the rain, snow, sleet, and hail had ceased!
At a lunch stop in Kars we met up with a family who invited us in for an impromtu Kitchen Party with harmonica, throat singing, hot chocolate, birthday cake and lots of laughter.
After the monsoon and the floods that kept us off the Rideau Waterway for two days, the sun finally came out. Here, on the downstream end of the portage around the Black Rapids Dam and Locks, the crew reloads for the last segment of river down to Mooney's Bay.
After arriving safely and successfully in Ottawa, and getting the Montreal canoe safely tethered at HMCS Carleton on Dows Lake, the crew takes a moment to relax and celebrate before moving to their accommodations at St. Paul's University Residence and Conference Centre.
To the fleet in Ottawa were added two more Voyageur Canoes, a skin-on-frame Umiaq, made at the Canadian Canoe Museum, and this handsome white Haida-style Spirit Dancer from the West Coast.
After months of worries about the weather and logistics involving getting five big canoes to Ottawa and onto Dows Lake it was a huge relief to hear a favourable weather report and to actually see the canoes tied up and ready to go at HMCS Carlton's most excellent wharf beside the pavillion at Dows Lake.
We were delighted to be joined by Fiddler extraordinaire, Kelli Trottier, from Kingston who played throughout the Ceremonial Leg from Dows Lake to the National Arts Centre.
Stephen Hunter greets Maryam Monsef at the launch of the Ceremonial Leg at Dows Lake on the morning of May 11th.
We were delighted to be joined by Peterborough-Kawartha''s own MP and Minister of Status of Women, Maryam Monsef, who wished us all well at the beginning the Connected by Canoe Ceremonial Leg.
One of the original founders of the Ottawa Community Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada, the incomparable unstoppable community builder, Grete Hale, came by HMCS Carleton to wish everyone well on the Ceremonial Leg of Connected by Canoe.
A key partner in making Connected by Canoe happen was Algonquin Elder Larry McDermott, Executive Director of Plenty Canada, who was one of our hosts at The Table in Perth but who also joined us for the Ceremonial Leg in Ottawa to welcome everyone to traditional Algonquin territory.
Connected by Canoe paddling "puppetista" Glen Caradus leads a stirring voyageur round as we make our way from Dows Lake to centretown Ottawa.
On the Connected by Canoe Ceremonial Leg we were delighted to be joined by a number of other paddlers, including Ottawa YMCA-YWCA President and CEO, Bob Gallagher and his spouse (in the blue kayaks) who are long time friends of the Canadian Canoe Museum.
During the Ceremonial Leg, paddling in five big canoes from Dows Lake to the National Arts Centre, we rafted up three times for some words of the paddle—about the canoe as a vessel of reconciliation—and some songs of the paddle from participants in the Express Leg
Erick Mugisha speaks about his experience on Connected by Canoe during the Ceremonial Leg and is moved to sing a song from his native Rwanda for the astonished floating audience.
Our two Algonquin bark canoe builders and members of the Connected by Canoe team for the early days of the journey ... surprised us all when they showed up on Dows Lake the last day for the Ceremonial Paddle to the National Arts Centre. It was great that Chuck Commanda brought his partner Janet to meet the crew and join in on the experience.
We were delighted to have in the stern of the Spirit Dancer canoe for the Ceremonial Leg Max Finkelstein, organizer of the Sesquicentennial South Wind Brigade and one of the most seasoned big canoe helmsmen in the country.
Paddling to Parliament Hill with delegates from the Community Foundations of Canada annual conference on the Ceremonial leg of Connected by Canoe. What an experience! What a privilege! What a way to mark Canada's 150th by talking about how to build a fairer, more inclusive, and reconciled, country.