Reshaped Birch Cree
Now it was time to decide on the decoration. According to various readings and museum searches, many Cree paddles were decorated in a simple manner, typically painted with boldly contrasting colours and often with stripes or other banding decorations. In particular, Garth Taylor's 1980 book Canoe construction in a Cree cultural tradition documents the building of a traditional Eastern Cree canoe made using canvas as a substitute for birch bark and has a nice illustration of various decorated Cree paddles.
Decorated Cree Paddles
A while back I had also come across a post (now deleted) on the FrontierFolk.net Forums, debating types of sealants on historic paddles. One poster put up the following pics of a canoe displayed in a store with a painted Cree paddle decorated decorated with white dots.
Another decorated Cree paddle
In my case, I kept the decoration extremely simple and in this same style. The grip and rounded tip were high heat burned to resemble the decoration of paddle D in Taylor's illustration. A few thick horizontal lines and bars with circular dots and the burning was complete. Certainly more simple than the complex patterns of Wabanaki paddles, but I find it very fitting for these unusual paddle shapes.
Given the limitations of the original paddle blank picked up at a roadside sale, the blade isn't proportional to the elongated dimensions of the blades outlined in Taylor's book. Still, for 5 dollars, this discarded blank turned out to be a great little paddle.