AUS Partners in The Canoe Project

Saaduuts, Center for Wooden Boats Artist in Residence, works on the initial shaping of the canoe.
(Photo credit: Shannon Kringen, AUS BA student)

Project offers opportunities for community engagement in native canoe culture in Lake Union Park.

Antioch University Seattle is collaborating with The United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF), and The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) to support the carving of native canoes at Seattle’s Lake Union Park. The Canoe Project will be overseen by Hydaberg, Alaska native Saaduuts, who for 10 years has served as CWB’s artist in residence. During that time, with the help of numerous Seattle school children and CWB volunteers, Saaduuts has carved 5 canoes. For Saaduuts, “the project is weaving the web of life.”

New canoes are being carved at the future site for the Northwest Native Canoe Center at Lake Union Park.

Carving the new canoes will take approximately 12 months, and be conducted in the open area west of the Lake Union Park footbridge at the future site for the Northwest Native Canoe Center.

This winter and continuing on throughout the year students from AUS, from local public schools, and other volunteers will assist native carver Saaduuts and his crew in fashioning the new canoes.

Once the carving is complete, a steaming ceremony will be conducted at the location to form the canoes into final shape before launching. Carving started with roughing out the canoes from cedar logs donated by the nuns at Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in Bellevue. The trees needed to be removed from their property, and when told of the difficulty in finding cedar logs for The Canoe Project, they offered theirs.

“A canoe is sacred, and a canoe is what is most needed by many of the regional canoe families in order to participate in the annual journey”, said Cindy Updegrave, faculty in  environmental studies, BA Completion Program, at Antioch University Seattle. “It is an honor to be a part of this project with Saaduuts, UIATF and CWB, and incorporate his teaching into our curriculum. We support the importance of our local Native traditions. As a community we serve at the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys, and have been overwhelmed with the warmth and generosity with which we have been received. We returned in 2011 reflecting on the power of the gift, and wanted to give back.”

While these canoes are carved, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation will continue the planning process for the new Northwest Native Canoe Center at Lake Union Park. When constructed, the Northwest Native Canoe Center will be the single most visible and accessible native facility in Seattle. According to Steve Paul, Vice Chairman of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, “Having it here will show that Canoe Culture is still alive and thriving and just how much the native population in the region contributes to the overall fabric of Seattle’s culturally diverse community

“We are so happy to work with United Indians of All Tribes Foundation and Antioch University Seattle to continue to fulfill the vision for Lake Union Park, to ensure Native American carving continues to be a prominent part of the story being told here,” said Betsy Davis, CWB’s Executive Director. “Our partnership honors the many volunteers and visitors who have supported native canoe carving at CWB over the years and helps fulfills our mission to preserve and pass along this region’s small craft heritage…which for millennia has been defined by these kinds of craft.”

Antioch University Seattle honors the whole person: body, mind, and spirit, and feels The Canoe Project embodies wholeness. AUS has a long-standing history of working with tribal communities on behalf of Native student education. Current President, Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet is the first Native American woman to become president of an accredited university outside the tribal college system. Dr. Manuelito-Kerkvliet has a deep commitment to education and Native peoples.