Work Progressing on the Xwaaqw'um Big Canoe - Carver's Host Fernwood Nature Class Visits

The 32’ foot-long snuhwulh (big canoe), carved from a single 710 year old X’pey (western red cedar tree) downed in a river valley windstorm will be finished over the next month or so for the Xwaaqwum Project (aka Burgoyne Bay).

“The Hul'q'umi'num word for canoe is snuhwulh, which means to transport people,” says Joe Akerman, local community organizer for the Xwaaqwum Project . “The ocean and rivers were the highways for Coast Salish people. Now many folks make use of land canoes (cars and trucks) in Coast Salish Territory.”

The snuhwulh will become an integral part of upcoming Indigenous youth culture and leadership camps at Xwaaqwum, along with use by school groups and cultural events for many years to come.

The carving of the canoe is being led by Master Carver, Joe Martin from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, who has completed over 70 dugout canoes in his lifetime, along with assistant carvers Joe Akerman and Christopher Roy. The entire process has taken many months. Forty volunteers showed up at different stages in the woods over four weeks in April at a camp in the forest to assist in the initial stages of the canoe-building.

If you're interested in making donations to support the project through to completion, send etransfers to with the answer to the secret transfer question set as: snuhwulh

“The carving of the snuhwulh is far from over,” says Joe Akerman, “We look forward to continuing work fixing cracks and knot holes, shaping out, steaming wider and painting the snuhwulh over the next month or two.”

As part of the project work, the carvers have been occasionally hosting community groups and schools in the Xwaaqwum Valley to meet Joe Martin, share in some of teachings about the project and to take a turn working on the nuhwulh. Here students from Fernwood Elementary School's Nature Programs meet with Joe and the carvers and learn to use some of the shaping tools used when crafting the snuhwulh.

June 1, 2018 8:46 AM

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