Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network Canoe Project

canoe 1

The Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network is bringing together Guardians, Elders, youth and community members from three Nations to work with traditional carvers and the Large Cultural Cedar (LCC) protocol in the H’Kusam forest. 

Over the past year, Guardians from three Nations in the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network have worked with carvers on an exciting new project. Guardians from the Network have located LCCs, worked with carvers to determine if it is suitable for building a canoe, and supported carvers' work on the traditional canoe in the forest while learning about their protocol, language, indigenous engineering, art and songs.  
This work began in November 2023, when a dedicated team embarked on a challenging hike into the H’Kusam forest to locate a suitable cedar for carving a traditional canoe. The three Nations have protected an area, H’Kusam, due to the monumental cedars and cultural modified trees located in this area near Sayward on Vancouver Island. Guardians have conducted many LCC surveys but needed to see the results of why they were doing these surveys, and the importance of cedar to the culture. During this trip, they discovered a wind-fallen cedar deemed suitable for the project. Choosing this tree allowed them to avoid cutting down another tree, maintaining the forest's integrity.

Following this discovery, a series of meetings took place, including during a Ha-may-yas hosted Guardian Gathering, where the carvers laid out a plan for the fallen LCC to be carved in the traditional manner in the forest. In the spring of 2024, the carvers settled into their small cabin in the H’Kusam forest, and the carving process began.

After 20 days straight of carving, the form of the canoe was completed and then, with the community’s help, the crews moved the canoe to the estuary for the steaming process. This traditional method involves heating rocks by fire and placing them inside the canoe with water to steam and shape the canoe. After steaming, the canoe will be designed and painted in Campbell River. The project is set to be completed this summer with a ceremonial launch that will include community. 


carvers stand in front of canoe

This work is part of the key pillar of the Ha-ma-Yas Stewardship Network which seeks to strengthen the cultural capacity of Indigenous Guardians by incorporating the Kwakwaka'wakw values and principles into the work the Guardians do.

To learn more about the Ha-ma-yas Stewardship Network please visit their website.