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Mike Ranta's Iconic Birch Bark Hat

Public Submission
Atikokan, Ontario
Materials & techniques
Birch bark, spruce root; hand-stitched, engraved
Constructed by Mike Ranta
On loan to the Atikokan Centennial Museum from Mike Ranta
This hat showcases exemplary craftsmanship with birch bark cut and shaped to create its form. The shape is reinforced with spruce roots, used as threads to stitch the piece together. To give the item a patriotic touch, the maker stamped the words "Canadian Made" among two detailed maple leaves on the hat’s outer brim.

Even more impressive is the 7500 km trip that its owner took while wearing his iconic hat. In 2014, Mike Ranta, a native of Atikokan, Ontario, and his fearless dog Spitzii undertook a solo cross-country canoe trip challenging himself to traverse voyageur trade routes, beginning in Vancouver, British Columbia, and ending in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. His goal was to make the trip in one season, and this was realized in November 2014.

Ranta credits his inspiration to four men from Atikokan who paddled from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, to Montreal, Quebec, in 1967, as part of the Centennial Canoe Pageant. Even more inspiring is the fact that Ranta completed his voyage with the purpose of donating funds earned from his trip to the Atikokan Legion and Atikokan Youth Centre. Amazingly, he has since finished his second solo cross-country adventure. He commenced his trip in British Columbia in April 2016 and finished in October 2016 in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

The image of canoeing into the wilderness resonates strongly in Canadians’ minds. Canoeing evokes a mystical past, when Aboriginals, explorers, and voyageurs bravely traversed the rugged landscape in search of friendships, food, fame, and fortune. Ranta's story adds a twenty-first century flavour to this historical imagery. In his travels, he paddles many of the same waterways our historic counterparts encountered during their own journeys. His canoe adventures remind us that even in our technological age, nature remains a prominent part of our national heritage.
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