Canoe Steaming in Lake Union Park as Museum of History and Industry Opens
Early this morning (December 29, 2012), Master Canoe Carver Sāādūūts lit a fire on the shore of Waterway 3 on Seattle’s Lake Union to begin heating rocks that he is using today to steam a 18-foot canoe being carved as part of “The Canoe Project”, a partnership to carve a native canoes at Lake Union Park by United Indians of All Tribes Foundation (UIATF), The Center for Wooden Boats (CWB) and Antioch University Seattle (AUS).
Today’s steaming ceremony is happening at the same time as the grand opening today of the Museum of History and Industry at its new location nearby, the historic Naval Reserve Armory in Lake Union Park. The new canoe will be launched into the waters of Lake Union at the end of the day.
“Opening day of the new museum is a good day for a steaming of the new canoe since it will bring so many people of many cultures together and allow them to honor the tree people who have been here so long,” said Sāādūūts, a native of Hydaberg, Alaska, who for 10 years has served as CWB’s artist in residence and is overseeing “The Canoe Project. “Carving cultural connections by carving canoes at the park is an important project.”
As part of today’s ceremony, rocks will be pulled from the fire when they are red hot, and carefully placed in water filling the bottom of the canoe, creating steam. The steaming process softens the cedar and makes it more flexible. The weight of the water in the middle of the canoe pulls the center down and allows the gunnels of the canoe to be pulled outward, creating the graceful curve and sweeping line of a traditional native canoe.
The new canoe is the first of two being carved at the location on the west side of Lake Union Park where United Indians of All Tribes plans to build the Northwest Native Canoe Center. The goal is to have the new facility become a center of native knowledge, skill, and a place for local tribes to show that Canoe Culture is still alive, thriving and contributing to the overall fabric of Seattle’s culturally diverse community.
The cedar log used to carve the new canoe is one of two 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. Through this winter and next year….students from Antioch University Seattle, local public schools and other volunteers will assist Sāādūūts and his crew in fashioning the new canoes.
Antioch University Seattle became involved in The Canoe Project as an outgrowth of the school’s participation in recent Tribal Canoe Journeys, which occur during the summer months drawing tribal craft from all around the Salish Sea. The school is incorporating the building of the canoes and support and study of Native tradition into its curriculum.
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. Plans call for construction of two buildings located between Westlake Avenue and Lake Union, just north of the Pedestrian Bridge across Waterway 3. The buildings will be made from large timber with broad glazed surfaces opening to views of the lake over the naturalized pebble beach already in place, which was graded to accommodate the launching and landing of traditional Native cedar canoes. The center would feature a range of activities highlighting indigenous maritime heritage, provide unique access to the Lake Union waterfront and offer distinctive, Native-inspired catering. The programmatic development for the center is to be developed by a proposed Urban Indian/Canoe Nation Tribal council
Anyone interested in finding out more about The Canoe Project can contact Cynthia Updegrave at Antioch University – Seattle. Those interested in the larger project to construct the Northwest Native Canoe Center buildings can contact Janeen Comenote,