CUTTING the bark off a live tree to create a canoe is not a task commonly undertaken any more, something Aboriginal elder Dick Murray says is a shame.
However, traditional customs were alive and well at the weekend as a three-metre piece of bark was cut from a tree to make a canoe.
Mr Murray said the practices, which were used for thousands of years, were being lost because the knowledge was not being passed on.
Permission had been sought from the landowner, Wodonga Council, to strip off the bark, which Mr Murray said did not affect the tree’s survival.
“If it wasn’t so hard to do this, we’d do it more often, but we’re not allowed to do anything in our own country, we’ve got to get permission,” he said.
Mr Murray said the practice of removing bark to build a canoe ensured flora and fauna were not disturbed, unlike what would happen if the tree was cut down.
“We’ve got to leave the land the way we found it, and that’s what this does,” he said.
“This is for ourselves and to make sure young people know about what we did years ago and how we did it.”
An axe made from a split piece of wood and a sharpened stone held in place with tree sap was also used to cut the bark an inch thick into the canoe’s shape.
Mr Murray said it would take about a week for the canoe to be completed.
He said the canoe would be probably be as good as a commercially made canoe and there was the satisfaction of not hurting the tree and animals who lived in it.
Among other activities involving traditional skills, as part of Native Fish Awareness Week, were grass net weaving and spear making.
Landcare indigenous involvement officer Richard Kennedy said although Aboriginal people gained rights in 1967, there was still a long way to go.
“This is a part of Australian history ... traditional knowledge is being lost, particularly because Aboriginal people weren’t allowed to do traditional practices up until 1967,” he said.