Mentor Artist Fellows Update: Canoe Building in Wisconsin

Wayne Valliere and Lawrence Mann gathering cedar., 2017

As part of our mission to support the continuation and revitalization of Native arts and cultures, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation launched the Mentor Artist Fellowship initiative in 2017. Through these Fellowships, we support one advanced artist who wants to pass on their skills and cultural knowledge of an art form to an apprentice, through funding, training, and ongoing assistance. Based in Wisconsin, traditional artist and culture bearer Wayne Valliere (Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa) has been mentoring Lawrence Mann (Forest Country Potawatomi) through the NACF’s program since June 2017.

Mr. Mann has not only been learning the Ojibwe techniques and materials used to build a canoe, but he’s learning about the ceremony, language, and cultural protocol included in the process. Traditionally, a canoe builder apprentice must build four canoes with an experienced builder before they can build one on their own. Mr. Valliere and Mr. Mann have worked together in the past, and this canoe marks the fourth canoe Mr. Mann will have helped build.

Mr. Mann has been sharing his journey through photos and videos on his Facebook, documenting the building process every step of the way – just search for #mentorfellows and you will find several! Mentor and apprentice have shared the building process with their entire community, often enlisting the help of friends, family, and students to help gather and process materials. Much of the canoe-building has taken place at the Indian Community School of Milwaukee, teaching students there about the art form while inspiring cultural knowledge and pride in the next generation. Mr. Mann values the community-building aspect of the art form, stating that “This knowledge is not for me, and I have to share what I have learned.”

So far, Mr. Valliere and Mr. Mann have been active in their mission to pass on cultural knowledge to their community, and will continue to do so as they complete the canoe. Native Arts and Cultures Foundation is proud to support artists like Mr. Valliere and Mr. Mann who seek to teach and learn traditional art practices to keep their culture alive and their community strong. Take a look at the pictures below that Mr. Mann has shared while working on this canoe. We’re very excited to see the finished project!