Beauty & Tradition
of the Birchbark Canoe

Steve Cayard
Birchbark Canoe Builder

Wednesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.
Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick

Close up of Quarter Panel
Photos: Steve Cayard

Join Friends of Merrymeeting Bay (FOMB) on Wednesday, April 10 at 7pm for the 7th presentation of their 16th annual Winter Speaker Series. This program, “Beauty and Tradition of the Birchbark Canoe” features canoe builder Steve Cayard.

Cayard builds authentically styled birchbark canoes in the tradition of the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, and Maliseet tribes of Maine and New Brunswick. They are among the Native American tribes collectively known as the Wabanaki, or “People of the Dawnland.” These people have inhabited the coastal and riverine environment of this region for at least the last twelve thousand years. Their intimate knowledge of its woods and waters led to the development of a superbly adapted form or watercraft, which became their chief means of transportation—the Wabanaki birchbark canoe.

Steve is a non-native, self-taught builder who, through his careful research and passion for the craft, and with his appreciation of its cultural context, has developed strong ties with the native tribal communities and builders whose traditions he borrows from. In return, he has offered his knowledge and skills to native groups who have sought him out to help them further their own efforts in revitalizing this central facet of traditional Wabanaki culture.
Birchbark canoe building is an outgrowth of Steve’s love for the woods. This feeling is seen in the artistry he puts into his canoes, and is epitomized by the graceful designs he etches on them in the dark “winter bark,” which is birchbark gathered when the tree is dormant. This ancient art form offers an opportunity for decoration that Steve uses not only to reflect traditional Wabanaki motifs, but also to express his own vision of the natural world, in the belief that each generation must infuse its own spirit into the tradition to keep it vital. Steve builds birchbark canoes on commission, and conducts research at museums, where he also offers consultation and conservation services. He teaches birchbark canoe building workshops in native and non-native communities.

The FOMB Winter Speaker Series takes place monthly from October-May on the second Wednesday. The series, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Friends of Merrymeeting Bay with support and valuable door prizes from Patagonia Outlet in Freeport. The last FOMB presentation of this season on May 8th at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick is entitled Defending Water for Life in Maine and features Grassroots Organizer Chris Buchanan.
To receive more information on FOMB’s programs call Ed Friedman, Chair, Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, at 666-3372 or Full speaker schedule and speaker biographies are available on the web at

Watercolors by
Sarah Stapler
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