Elm tree transformation

In the fall of 2016, Festival du Voyageur received the news that the old elm tree situated between Fort Gibraltar and Maison Chaboillez at Whittier Park was diagnosed with Dutch elm disease. Over the years, this tree became an important symbol for the residents of Saint-Boniface and for the Festival itself. To avoid cutting down the beloved tree and losing it completely, Festival du Voyageur (site manager) and the City of Winnipeg (site owner) took steps to transform the tree’s trunk in a public work of art which would last for decades to come.

In June of 2017, following an open call to Manitoba artists as well as a rigorous selection process, David Perrett’s submission, “We Dream of Flying Canoes”, was selected for the project.

Inspired by a sense of timeless play “We Dream of Flying Canoes” represents a child’s hand just as it begins to throw a canoe into the air. The work of art is an homage to the land upon which the elm stands and legends of flying canoes that can be found in several North American cultures, including the legend of the Chasse-Galerie. Furthermore, in recognition of the traditional territorial rights of the Cree and Saulteaux First Nations, the clan totems used to sign the 1817 Selkirk Treaty have been carved into the art piece. The sculpture also features a phosphorescent resin that glows for several hours after sunset.

Festival du Voyageur would also like to recognize the support of the City of Winnipeg and Councillor Matt Allard who, by way of the “Land Dedication Reserve Fund”, secured financing to transform the elm tree. In addition to giving renewed life to a beloved tree, this grand freed up funds to create an educational program for the project. Featuring digital and interactive elements, this program will offer visitors a chance to discover several flying canoe legends interpreted by storytellers in many different languages.

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