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This film documents master carver Joe Martin, one of the few traditional craftsmen left who make dugout canoes used by his people, the Pacific Northwest Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations. Trained by his father as a young child, his canoes are known for their beauty and craftsmanship. Martin's home is on Vancouver Island, Canada. In the winter, he spends his time at his workshop in Tofino, a small district on the island, and in the summer, he travels to Clayoquot Sound. Martin is a respected instructor and cultural ambassador. He offers his apprentices opportunities to learn the craft and he also speaks to school groups. He has traveled as far afield as Australia, Japan, and Hawaii to share his expertise. His daughter uses the canoes to give cultural storytelling paddle tours in Clayoquot Sound.
The Canoe Maker explores Martin's cultural heritage of canoe-making and the intimate connection to the land and water that is his home. In his mid-sixties, Martin thinks there is enough interest among younger First Nations generations to keep the craft alive.