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The Grandfather Canoe

Two hundred years after a revered and sacred canoe disappeared from the banks of the St John River in Canada, it turned up in a building in Galway.

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4.3/5 (56 ratings)

Documentary maker: Joe Kearney

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The Grandfather Canoe

When Canada’s oldest birch-bark canoe was discovered hanging from the rafters of a building in Galway none were more surprised than the craft’s original owners, the Maliseet First Nation community of Fredericton, New Brunswick. Two hundred years previously the revered and sacred canoe disappeared from the banks of the St John River. The Maliseet believed it had been stolen and had vanished from their possession for good.

The canoe’s history is complex and extraordinary. The Maliseet call it ‘Akwiten’ or Grandfather Canoe. They understand it to represent the spirits of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. They are recognised as the finest canoe-builders in North America and Canada and can trace their presence along this river for over 12,000 years.

In this documentary, Joe Kearney charts the canoe’s 200 year journey from the banks of the St John River to famine ravaged Headford, Co. Galway and back again to Canada. It is a story of the fight for lost identity and heritage in a tug-of-war battle for ownership of the ‘Grandfather’ Canoe.

‘The Grandfather canoe’ was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland Sound and Vision Scheme.

It was produced by Joe Kearney. Production Supervision by Ciaran Cassidy. Sound Supervision by Mark McGrath.

First Broadcast 23rd August 2014

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