Historical Context

e-Portageur-&-canoe-DSCF136The majestic sweep of the Lake Michigan shoreline that we now call Maritime Bay has long been an inviting place.  The earliest people – the Menominee, Ojibwa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi, along with other Wisconsin tribes – thrived in its woodlands and along its waterways, pursuing ways of life made possible by birch bark canoes. The legacy of these first people, much more than arrowheads unearthed in the plowed fields, resides in the very names and spirits of this region.

The elegant technology that allowed the making of a birch bark canoe ties the monument to our maritime tradition.  As the horse was to the settlement of the Great Plains, so the birch bark canoe was to the Great Lakes Region, where the canoe allowed transport, exploration and the development of cultures unique to this area.

canoeThe monument celebrates no great battle, no historic discovery or event but merely the everyday life of a bygone era. The idea of a large public work of art was conceived by Joseph Metzen, a local resident who envisioned a project grand enough to become a regional landmark.  He and the sculptor, a Manitowoc native, conceived the subject and theme of the monument.  A generous donation from Carol and Daniel Wergin funded the creation of a maquette (working model), and a group of citizens from Manitowoc and Two Rivers formed a nonprofit organization to raise funds to complete the project.