Canoe, Dugout

CANOE, DUGOUT, was brought to a high degree of functionality on the BC coast by FIRST NATIONS people, who constructed canoes in a variety of sizes for many different purposes. The HAIDA built BC's largest ocean-going dugouts—up to 24 m in length, though 10 to 15 m was more common—for WHALING, sealing, trading and raiding (see also FUR SEAL; FUR TRADE, MARITIME). Each canoe was carved from a single log, an enormous red CEDAR trunk. It was first shaped and hollowed out with hand adzes. The wood was then made pliable with hot water and the canoe was widened with wooden stretchers. Several styles prevailed: northern designs favoured a rounded hull and high bow and stern extensions while southern hulls were often V-shaped and had less pronounced prows. Both types of canoe were prized trade items. Dugouts were often elaborately painted and incised and have inspired artists such as Bill REID (see also ART, NORTHWEST COAST ABORIGINAL). They had mostly disappeared by the 1900s. In recent years a number of coastal aboriginal groups have paddled replica canoes (usually made of fibreglass) on lengthy journeys. See also LOOTAS.
by Andrew Scott