Profile • Tobias Francis

Top: David Moses Bridges Bottom: Tobias Francis

Top: David Moses Bridges
Bottom: Tobias Francis

A legacy can come in many forms, ranging from financial to personal to educational impact. For Tobias Francis, he wants his legacy to be one of education, heritage, ancestry, and art. As the eldest son of the late birchbark basket and canoe-maker, David Moses Bridges, Tobias grew up spending time with his dad in the woods, harvesting materials, watching him create beauty and function from bark, attending his educational programs, and absorbing as much as he could about the art and use of outdoor materials and his father’s love for nature and his culture.

When Tobias’ father passed away before he was able to complete his goal of creating the last ornaments for CCLC’s 100 Hearts Campaign, Tobias committed to carry on his father’s legacy by working with birchbark to create the fifth and final ornament for the 100 Hearts Campaign. Through that project and beyond, Tobias is passionate about educating people about the art and traditions of his culture—that, as he said, “Natives still exist. We’re still here and we’re still doing things they were doing 3000 years ago.” For Tobias, this contribution to the 100 Hearts Campaign will help him learn more about how to work with birchbark so that someday he can lead his own workshops and perhaps even build his own canoe.

“My dad never expected me to do what he did, but I want to carry on his legacy. I want to be remembered as a good person, as the son of a great canoe-builder, and as somebody that is willing to seize the beauty in that and share it with my younger brothers. I want to be somebody that made an impact in a road less traveled.”

Beyond Tobias’ and his father’s contributions to CCLC, Tobias’ grandmother Hilda also has been a critical supporter of CCLC through her support of the capital campaign to build Heartwood Lodge. When asked why he felt that so many of his family members have been involved with CCLC, Tobias said it is because “CCLC has done so much for and with our people. They have helped shed light on Native crafts and the Native people of Maine. CCLC’s vision for education, the arts, and the natural world is what drew my dad and his mother in. It was a natural thing for our family.” Tobias’ legacy will clearly impact not only CCLC, but also every person he teaches about birchbark artistry and the traditions of his culture—knowledge that he worries could be lost in the next generation if he does not work to carry it on.