A community in Canada is hoping that a 19th-century bark-built canoe can be retained in New Brunswick, rather than be returned to NUI Galway.
The ‘Grandfather Akwiten’ canoe is believed to be oldest birchbark canoe of its type in the world and was built by the forefathers of the Maliseet community.
The canoe had been stored at NUIG for many years, before it was transported to Canada in 2009 to be restored.
It was planned to temporarily display it in Canada once restored, before returning it to Galway.
In an open letter to the Irish people, Chief Candice Paul of the First Nation had explained how the spirits of her community’s elders were vested in the craft, which had once plied the St John river valley, before becoming what she described as a “home for pigeons” in NUIG’s James Mitchell museum.
However, the art gallery where it has been kept in Canada since 2009 contacted NUIG in November to say it had run out of space to store it. The Beaverbrook art gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick, said it was “still unclear as to whether the ownership for the artefact had been officially transferred” and “if this has occurred, who the new owner is”.
Chief Paul says they now want it kept in New Brunswick and has asked NUI Galway to hand over any documentation pertaining to its ownership.
NUI Galway says it will work with Canadian authorities to repatriate the canoe to Canada.