If you've walked through Bois-des-Esprits, you may have come upon the 3-meter-tall spirit tree, who goes by the name of Woody-Mhitik.
Woody's story goes back to 2004. Two members of Les Gens de Bois Woodcarving Club, Walter Mirosh and Robert Leclair, decided to help with Save Our Seine's campaign to protect the Bois-des-Esprits by contributing wood carvings for fundraising raffles. This led to the idea of creating a landmark in Bois-des-Esprits in the form of a real wood spirit.
Upon contacting SOS President Bev Sawchuk, they found a suitable candidate: a 150-year-old, 75-foot-tall elm tree suffering from Dutch elm disease, which was slated for removal by the City of Winnipeg to prevent the spread of the disease. The Winnipeg forestry department granted permission to save the lower 10 feet of the tree on the condition that all the bark be removed and burned before April 1st, to avoid spread of the disease.
And so began the work to transform an old tree into a new fixture of the forest. The diseased limbs were trimmed away and the bark was completely removed. Preparation was completed in March of 2004, and carving began the following April. A wood spirit would soon be released.
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Something special happened while carving the eyes of the wood spirit. As the carvers worked, the forest was alive with sound: frogs croaking, ducks quacking, geese honking, and birds chirping. But when it came time to open the first eye of the wood spirit and Robert struck his gouge with his mallet, the forest went silent as if to hold its collective breath. As soon as the outline of the eye was completed, the forest noises returned. Both carvers were in awe. The following day, they returned to open the wood spirit's other eye and the same thing happened again. Was the spirit of the tree really being released?
In 2005, two more spirits were released: a second wood spirit facing the oxbow on the opposite side of the first, and a red fox protected within the beard of the first spirit. Many honorary carvers were given a chance to contribute and carve with a chisel and mallet.
On May 28th, 2006, a ceremonial feast was held with the carvers, Save Our Seine, and members of Winnipeg's Indigenous community. The ceremony commemorated the completion of the spirit tree and included a naming ritual. The first wood spirit, facing north, was named Woody. The second wood spirit, facing the oxbow to the south, was given the Ojibwe name Mhitik.