Canoe links: Work, play, symbol, and show in North America's native/newcomer encounter
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Modest in concept, the canoe's bewildering narrative binds humans to nature over countless millennia. Ancient yet accessible, the canoe has spiritual and societal roots that touch people on each continent. A stunning diversity of purpose, design, and substance shape the canoe's past to make each surviving specimen indicative of cultural identity. Therefore, the canoe is a commonality in the long process of migration, nation building. In North America, the idea of the canoe evokes creation stories, epic narratives, and the fundamentals of basic living. Here, the canoe's role as a catalyst in the native/newcomer encounter is seen in the literature and art of discovery, exploration, conquest, and colonization. The ironic result is that the canoe is often so ubiquitous as to be largely ignored. Every canoe tells a story. Therein lies the canoe's agile aesthetic in love, hate, war, peace, and basic human rights. This dissertation is a collection of case studies, oral histories, and images that demonstrate the agency of the canoe. The organizing theme is about how people use and imagine canoes, particularly in the Great Lakes Region between Canada and the United States. By gathering examples of what is known, reasonable to infer, or possible to imagine about the agency of the canoe, you contextualize individual and collective experience. This study has three goals. One goal is to raise the quality perception in the U.S. and Canada about the multivalent contributions that American Indians' make to each nation's identity. Another goal is to see bewildering diversity in how the humble canoe links people to endeavors of work, play, symbol and show. The third goal is to imagine the canoe as a way to see what is not always obvious when considering the ordinary. These goals pivot around social irony--Why are North America's original inhabitants made to be the poorest population in two of the world's wealthiest nations? 1 This dissertation has four parts. Each part has two chapters with one being a thematic overview, and the other chapter being a case study or oral history. There is a total of eight chapters. The text is referenced by an extensive bibliography and seventy-one images. Ultimately, this dissertation answers a long riddle--What is ancient yet accessible, complex yet simple, universal yet local, abstract yet tangible? What is sometimes so familiar as to be near invisible? What has value that ranges from being an iconic archetype in a museum, to being a piece of junk in someone's backyard? What seems meaningless to some people, yet for others is endowed with so much meaning that it transcends as it defines existence? What tool is central to the national creation stories of North America? What reveals as much as you care to see about the creation and manifestation of human genius? 1 John Mohawk and Oren Lyons, personal interviews and graduate seminars, 2001 to 2006, plus published and unpublished work as indicated in the pages that follow.