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Tribal Journey

Community-carved canoe to return to Hoonah

Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2007

After paddling roughly 325 miles over 20 days during an intertribal canoe festival in Washington state last month, artist Duane Bosch aims to complete the final leg of a journey he began more than a year ago.

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A crew will begin paddling the roughly 75-mile journey from Juneau to Hoonah on Saturday morning, returning a traditional 22-foot red cedar Tlingit canoe to its home, where it was completed by Bosch and children of the community about one month ago. The crew expects to arrive in Hoonah on Sunday afternoon, Bosch said.

"We're going to complete the last leg of that journey and bring it back to Hoonah where it will be stored and be used by the community for cultural activities and also viewing by the public," he said.

Bosch brought the idea of carving a traditional Tlingit canoe to the city of Hoonah more than a year ago as a way to engage youth and pass on traditional knowledge. The city helped fund the project and more than 40 children assisted over the course of a year in bringing the "Whispering Raven" canoe to life.

"It's a great learning tool," Bosch said. "Teaching traditional skills, teaching teamwork, teaching sobriety, teaching physical fitness, teaching spirituality - it's really good for teaching those aspects."

Bosch set up a carving station at the William and Mary Johnson Youth Center in Hoonah, and kids began helping out after school and on weekends. The kids swept up wood chips, sharpened tools and even learned how to carve, he said.

"Young people are so ready to be taught that they'll just absorb every bit of technique advice that I can give them, and a lot of times they'd apply it," he said. "So it was a real joy to work with the kids."

Bosch, an adjunct art professor at the University of Alaska Southeast specializing in Northwest Coast carving, said he hopes the children will be inspired by their involvement in the project.

"It's a special honor and a special responsibility to pass these traditional ways on to the young people and to try to be a good role model to those listening ears that are always watching and waiting for instruction," he said.

Bosch said the plan is to create two paddling teams in Hoonah to use the canoe, one for youth and one for adults.

The crew plans to leave Juneau at 5 a.m. Saturday and paddle around Point Retreat and camp at Swanson Harbor that night. Sunday morning it will leave early and paddle past the Sisters Islands, around Point Sophia and into Port Frederick in Hoonah where they will be met on the beach for a celebration.

After completing more than 300 miles in the canoe already, Bosch said he has a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for ancestors who used the boats as their primary mode of transportation.

"It gave us a lot of respect for the old ways, in which almost all the members of a community would be ready at the drop of a hat to do such a thing," he said. "Without safety boats, without GPS, without compasses, without fleece, without all the things we take for granted nowadays."

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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