Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eastern Cree Canvas Canoe

After waiting 4 months on the Toronto Public Library's system, I finally got a hold of Garth Taylor's book Canoe construction in a Cree cultural tradition(1980). It documents a commission build for the Canadian Museum of Civilization of a traditional Eastern Cree canoe made using canvas as a substitute for birch bark.

The building took place of the summer of 1979 in the village of Great Whale River (now Whapmagoostui) in northern Quebec. John Kawapit and a few assistants constructed the craft using traditional methods and material available to them. Gunwales, ribs, and sheathing were made of spruce rather than white cedar used by more southern builders.

Taylor points out that use of canvas for the hull began early in the 20th century and by 1908 was nearly used exclusively for its ease of use and durability. It required slight modification of the gunwales, use of nails rather that root lashing and an exterior stem piece. Normally the canvas was painted to make it waterproof but a shortage of paint at the time meant it was left untouched save for the red decorative marks on the ends and ribs. The final work is pictured below.

John Kawapit's Eastern Cree Canoe
Artifact Number III-D-686 a
Full Citation

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have that book waiting at my library for me to pick it up...will be doing that tonight. Looking forward to checking it out.

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