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We Still Believe

"Life by the River" Project creates canoe in the ancient way

Congratulations to our very own Kevin Melvin (Lumbee Tribal Historic Preservation Officer) and the “Life by the River” Project team who successfully launched the canoe “called Wisdom” from the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center this weekend. The 18 feet long dugout canoe took 8 months to finish and was created using the burnout method our ancestors would have used hundreds of years ago. “Life by the River” is a program by the Museum of the Southeast American Indian that focuses on North Carolina's Native People's connection in relationship with their ancestral waters. The canoe project was one of the components of the project led by Kevin Melvin. The project was a community collaborative as people were invited to help build the canoe. Eventually the canoe will travel across the state. The goal is to put it in each tribes' ancestral waters, whether that is a river, stream, lake or Carolina bay.

The project started as an internship for Kelvin Melvin’s graduate school program at UNC Wilmington. The team found the large Loblolly Pine tree with the help of the North Carolina Nature Conservancy. The tree was cut, moved to the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center, where it was burned and dug out by teams of volunteers each week since May.

This weekend the team moved the canoe to the edge of the Cultural Center Lake. After some final sanding, they set it on fire one more time. The fire helps with the sanding and seals up the inside of the canoe. It was then sunk into the lake where it will remain until May. Since the canoe had been sitting out in the elements for months, it had begun to crack. The water submersion will help preserve it. After the launch this weekend, Kelvin Melvin canoed around the lake for a few moments. Lumbee ancestors would have used this type of canoe for fishing, transportation and maneuvering the river systems.

The dugout canoe is only one part of the “Life by the River” Project. The program goal is to revive the canoe tradition with songs and ceremonies and the different things that go along with our traditional RIPERIAN way of life. The museum staff and community plan to bring the canoe up in May. The inaugural launch programming and ceremony is scheduled for May 13th. The canoe will eventually be preserved and put in the Museum of the Southeast American Indian at UNCP. Visit the museum's website for more information about "Life by the River" Project.


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