César's Bark Canoe

This documentary shows how a canoe is built the old way. César Newashish, a 67-year-old Attikamek of the Manawan Reserve north of Montreal, uses only birchbark, cedar splints, spruce roots and gum. Building a canoe solely from the materials that the forest provides may become a lost art, even among the Native peoples whose traditional craft it is. The film is without commentary but text frames appear on the screen in Cree, French and English.

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Film Credits

Bernard Gosselin
Bernard Gosselin
Paul Larose
Serge Beauchemin
Monique Fortier
Maurice Blackburn
Roger Lamoureux

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  • lindsaydobbin

    “This is one of my favourite film. There is no narration, and very little dialogue, which feels like a revelation. Especially for a documentary created in 1971 about an Aboriginal person and traditional knowledge. I think the lack of interpretation and the simplicity of this film inspires viewers to be more present. Rather than being caught up in description, we can participate through witnessing César's engagement with the contours and rhythms of the materials and the way life weaves in and out of the entire process.” — lindsaydobbin, 11 Mar 2015

  • old_dame

    “Genius.” — old_dame, 20 Jun 2013

  • Darby

    “ fmarcoux mentioned that his son Louis is caring on his father's tradition of building these beautiful canoes. Does anyone have any idea how to contact Louis? I am trying to show the Native youngsters on the Oneida Settlement near London, Ontario how to build one and I could think of no would more I would like to learn from than his son so I may pass it on. If you have any info you can pass it on to our site at Paddling Back to Traditional Culture on Facebook Thank You ” — Darby, 3 Jun 2013

  • CanoeDad

    “I stumbled across this beautiful video accidentally and got hooked and watched it to the very end. I am absolutely gobsmacked by the old man's craftsmanship. I wish I was that skilled. I have only just discovered canoeing as my new hobby. I have not yet got my own canoe yet and was thinking of building my own canoe with the stich & glue method. But it will be no means be as beautiful as this one. When he started out on his maiden voyage with his daughter, it made my eyes water. This video is so so beautiful!” — CanoeDad, 6 Sep 2012

  • Dmytro

    “This beautiful film represents an important part of Canada's historical heritage that will not be forgotten thanks to this film. We rarely see the man's face while he works consistently and quietly.” — Dmytro, 28 Apr 2012

  • Coventry

    “Coventry. Absolute wonderful silent absorption for the children. ” — Coventry, 22 Feb 2012

  • carlosporto

    “Beautiful amazing skills. ” — carlosporto, 30 Jan 2011

  • nativeatheart

    “All I can say is WOW!!!...true craftsman...beautiful” — nativeatheart, 9 Dec 2010

  • fmarcoux

    “His son Louis is carrying on the tradition in Manouane Québec” — fmarcoux, 24 Nov 2010

  • bush bunny

    “What a beautiful little film, are there any craftsmen like him left? I would imagine the woman in the film is his daughter, it's obvious she is very proud of him, especially at the end when she goes for a boat ride to check the fish nets, I hope someone in his family still has that boat or others that he made, any museum would be proud to own it . These are the skills that have gotten lost, an easier lifestyle has taken over for the next generation, and the promise of a better life, but is it? Thank the NFB for preserving this artisan and the magic in his hands, and all of the other films that contain a historical significance.” — bush bunny, 17 Mar 2010

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