Evanston canoe launch marks homecoming for Chicago’s Native American community

An indigenous canoe builder and artist at Northwestern led a year-long project to build a birchbark canoe and help preserve the Native American art form.

WBEZ
Wayne Valliere, a Native American canoe builder, puts the finishing touches on a birchbark canoe with a volunteer at Northwestern University. Courtesy of Northwestern University / WBEZ
WBEZ
Wayne Valliere, a Native American canoe builder, puts the finishing touches on a birchbark canoe with a volunteer at Northwestern University. Courtesy of Northwestern University / WBEZ

Evanston canoe launch marks homecoming for Chicago’s Native American community

An indigenous canoe builder and artist at Northwestern led a year-long project to build a birchbark canoe and help preserve the Native American art form.

At daybreak Friday, a handcrafted Native American birchbark canoe launched into Lake Michigan from a beach in Evanston.

The last time that happened was likely nearly two centuries ago — when Native American tribes were displaced from the Chicago/Evanston area and their land transferred to the federal government, eventually becoming the state of Illinois.

The canoe-building project was led by Wayne Valliere, a Native American canoe builder and artist-in-residence at Northwestern University dedicated to preserving this indigenous art form.

Press listen above to hear more about the year-long project that’s been a homecoming for Chicago’s Native American community.