PHOTOS: In a canoe, Carcross/Tagish First Nation citizens find healing

Carving apprentice Violet Gatensby, left, uses a hose connected to a creek to add water to a dugout canoe on July 20 on the grounds of the old Chooutla School in Carcross as master master Wayne Price, to her right, watches. Price and Gatensby had spent 63 days carving the canoe out of a cedar trunk and were in the process of stretching it, using steam to make the wood more malleable. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)
Carcross/Tagish First Nation citizens and visitors hold hands around a healing canoe on the site of the old Chooutla School in Carcross on July 20 for a prayer. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)
Tlingit master carver Wayne Price, second from the left, measures how much his dugout canoe has stretched as volunteers use boards to keep the sides of the canoe wet in Carcross on July 20. Price, along with his apprentice Violet Gatensby, had spent the previous 63 days carving the healing canoe, which was then brought to the grounds of the old Chooutla School for stretching. Price was aiming to get the canoe’s opening from 35 inches to 52 or 53. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)
Tlingit master carver Wayne Price, left, and carving apprentice Violet Gatensby show off the callouses on their hands on July 20. The pair had spent the previous 63 days carving a healing canoe in Carcross, which was then brought to the grounds of the old Chooutla School for stretching. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)
Two men place rocks heated in a fire into a dugout canoe filled with water on the grounds of the old Chooutla School in Carcross on July 20. The hot rocks created steam that softened the wood, allowing for the canoe to be gradually stretched with progressive-longer wooden beams placed across the top of the vessel. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News)

Carcross/Tagish First Nation citizens and visitors gathered at the grounds of the old Chooutla School on July 20 to take part in the stretching of a healing canoe, hand-carved by Alaskan Tlingit master carver Wayne Price and his apprentice, C/TFN citizen Violet Gatensby.

The pair, with help from several others, spent 63 days carving the dugout canoe, gradually whittling a 15,000-pound (6,800-kilogram), 450-year-old cedar tree trunk harvested from the Alaskan coast into the 450-pound vessel. The stretching, which used steam to soften the wood in order to widen the hull, invert the curve in the bottom and increase the height of the stern and bow, was one of the final steps in the process.

The location of the stretching was no coincidence. C/TFN citizen Harold Gatensby, who attended Chooutla, said it was part of the process of reclaiming the land and re-infusing it with good energy.

The process began at 6 a.m.; asked how long it would take, Price replied, “It’ll be done when it’s done … Trees are like people, every one is different.”

Once completed, Price said he would like to see the canoe put to use, carrying people from place to place on the water.

Contact Jackie Hong at

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