Local man tries to bring back a traditional Canadian process

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John Harrison, a native of Orillia spends around 8 months in an year living in the bush near Algonquin Provincial Park. John wishes to bring back a nearly forgotten art of building traditional Canadian canoes. He has built 17 and 18-feet racing canoes and is now planning to build a racing canoe side wing as his future project. 

John Harrison holds a Fine Arts University degree and is also a proficient musician. He lives in Tipi on the shores of Campbell Lake when he is not in the city. He also teaches at Rama’s Mnjikaning Kendaaswin Elementary School on how to build a one foot canoe and has also written lesson plans for a canoe program.

Harrison says he relishes the essence of nature and respects the joy of being in nature. He practices his skills at making traditional birch bark canoes. Harrison’s father Ron Harrison was a machine shop teacher at the Park Street Collegiate Institute in the year 1962 to 1995. He also started schools Outward Bound program in the 1960s. Ron Harrison also built 86 canoes in cedar strip and fiberglass. John has built 6 so far. 

Harrison is also coming up with a book titles The Last Algonquin which is a collection of essays that will guide on how to build a traditional Canadian canoe. The book also features insights into life, indigenous history and ones place in nature. Harrison builds the canoes with three simple hand tools on the ground and sustainable harvesting followed by a traditional Canadian process. He has also sold a 12-foot trapper canoe that’s now on display at Rama’s Bare Butts Smoke shop.

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