Canoes: The California Chumash
canoes, which they took out on the ocean for quick travel and to
Carved Canoes (Dugouts): In the Pacific
Northwest, canoe carvers were trained by their ancestors to be
carvers. No one else was allowed to carve a canoe. The art was
handed down from father to son, from uncle to nephew. These canoes
were huge. They were carved from cedar trees, of course.
For those of you who do not live in the Pacific
Northwest, cedar trees can grow over 80 feet tall quite easily.
Since the forests are so thick, there are few branches on the way
up. (This is still true today.) One way to describe a cedar tree is
that it is a tall, wide, strong pole of wood with a hat of green
leaves at the very top. The natural shape of cedar trees make them
rather perfect for cutting into planks or for splitting into two
long sections. That's exactly what these early people did. They
built canoes that were 50 feet long and 8 feet wide. These were
workboats. Each canoe could hold 20 warriors and 10,000 pounds of
cargo, such as fish.
They also carved boats that were much smaller.
A single family, for family outings, to enjoy the water and the
sunshine or to visit other tribes along the coast, used these small
To make a canoe, first they had to cut down a
cedar tree. Then they had to split the log in half, without cracking
it. Then, they had to burn and scrape down the middle, to begin to
shape it. Once they got that far, they filled the hole they had
scraped down the middle with water. Just as the women used hot
stones to make water boil in cooking baskets, so did the ancient
canoe makers soften the cedar. They filled the hollow with water and
added hot rocks until the water boiled. This softened the cedar so
that they could begin to shape and carve their canoe.
Bark Canoes: The Chippewa/Ojibwa
were master canoe builders. First they put stakes in the ground,
forming an outline of the canoe. The stakes were not part of the
canoe. They were used to hold the boat upright while it was being
built. Next, they placed thick sheets of birch bark inside the
stakes, forming the canoe. They added bent cedar ribs. They sewed
the bark together with string made from spruce roots. They glued it
together with spruce gum that made the seams watertight. Their
canoes were portable, light weight, sturdy, and waterproof. Some of
their canoes were so big they could move entire families.
more about the Dugout Canoe
History of the Canoe, a Native American invention