Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Historic Paddle Illustrations: Picturesque Canada 1882 Maliseet Guides

Lovers of Canadian history might want to check out a classic two-volume work now available on Archive.org.  Picturesque Canada : the country as it was and is  by George M. Grant is a real visual feast. Volume II mostly features the eastern part of the country and contains some stunning etched artwork.

In particular, the chapter on New Brunswick features a section detailing two "Melicite" (i.e. Maliseet) guides running a fishing trip on the Tobique river. Page 765 features lovely illustrations of the guides poling their birchbark canoes upriver and then returning downstream by paddle..



"Poling up and paddling down"


Difficult to spot, but the seated paddler in the background canoe seems to be grasping his paddle in the more indigenous method (along the shaft) that can be seen better in this image closeup...





Page 776 has a wonderful scene of one guide carving a pole with a crooked knife while his tarp and overturned canoe form a shelter in the background. I'm still on the hunt for the perfect standing dead spruce to carve another pole from but can image a peaceful scene like this.

"Making New Pole for Canoe"


As an extra bit of current inspiration, check out Luke McNair's wonderfully illustrated article "Poling a Canoe" now online at TheAdventurer.ca. The exciting photos in the piece show Luke poling, snubbing and even surfing ocean waves! Included in the article is a shot of Luke calmly carving a a wooden pole with his mocotaugan in a scene reminiscent of the above sketch...

Photo by Luke McNair
March 9, 2016 - TheAdventurer.ca




7 comments:

David said...

I really like the drawings... My new birch paddle will make it possible to use wile standing in the canoe! I need to make myself a new pole, I was thinking of a collapsible one... We'll see what I can come up with!

Murat said...

Thanks David. Looking forward to your collapsible pole ideas. I've been thinking about the idea too.

Mike Normandeau said...

Hi, can you recommend a good paddle making book to get started? Thanks!
Mike

Murat said...

The best one is probably Graham Warren's book - "Canoe Paddles: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own". Published 2001. ISBN-10: 1552095258

woodsmans finest said...

Murat... As it seems that the northwoods tradition with their particular stroke and typical Maine guide paddles come from these wabanaki guides and their paddles, would you think he is basically using a northwoods stroke with a flat neck paddle? That would explain a lot to me and I had this totally wrong impression that those guides (that I imagine in Maine and New Brunswick) were white... Silly me.

woodsmans finest said...

Interesting, so the flat neck Maine guide paddle and northwoods tradition evolved from native guides... I always had white people in mind...
Silly me.
The northwoods stroke is very reminiscent of the way gondolas in Venice are maneuvered and also in the lake area of my home country Austria there is a long boat, paddles standing on one side that is using this kind of rocking stroke with the slicing recovery for steering. If you are interested they are called ausseer plätte! Cheers

Murat said...

Long flat necked grips definitely originated with the native tradition. The oldest intact surviving North American native paddle I've come across is a Cree paddle dated to 1770. It features a long flattened grip as well. Without seats in the canoes, natives would have knelt so low to make the canoe stable but would need a much more sideways stroke than raised seated paddlers today. It seems the modern "Northwoods" stroke was named by white guides and lumbermen in Maine and also features a sideways grip and a slicing recovery, albeit at a much faster stroke rate.

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