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Oldest Birchbark Canoe Returning Home This Year

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This year Canada could see the repatriation of what may be the world’s oldest birchbark canoe--found in a storage barn, dating back 250 years, the tattered vessel is slated to be restored at its current resting place in at Britain’s National Maritime Museum in Cornwall and then returned to its original turf.

According to the British Web site Culture24, which reported the find in mid-December, a team of experts will conserve the wood, research the boat’s history and recreate the original look of the birch-bark canoe before sending it to the Canadian Canoe Museum in September 2011.

Meanwhile the boat will be exhibited in Falmouth, UK, starting in January 2011, the site said.

Culture24 said the estate where the boat was found “belongs to the family of Lieutenant John Enys, a soldier who was part of a battle to save Canada from an American siege in the 1776 American War of Independence and discovered the canoe while traveling during breaks from his regiment.”

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Quoting Enys’s journal, the Montreal Gazette said that the soldier detailed a nighttime encounter with “dozens of First Nations paddlers on the St. Lawrence River” in 1787 in which they looked like magical lights moving upon the water. He appears to have been so inspired that he packed a canoe of his own for his journey back to England.

The First Nations tribe that built and used the birchbark canoe has not yet been identified, the reports said, but they were in wide use during the 1800s.