Tuesday, December 22, 2009

ROM Canoe Paddles

During my recent visit to the Royal Ontario Museum to check out their bark canoes, I came across a display of an Iroquois paddle that caught my eye. The lighting inside the glass case was horrific, so no photos worked out. But, I was able to find a digital image from the ROM's site of the paddle in question. Turns out they have 3 such paddles in their collection. The one on display was the specimen on the far right.

ROM Paddles - Iroquois
late 19th - early 20th century
Area of Origin: Northeast; Ontario; Canada; North America; Six Nations of the Grand

Not very obvious from the photo, but the shaft on the display paddle was quite narrow, it looked like it was less than one inch thick. Information on the wood type was not available but I'm assuming it would have to be a strong hardwood to handle such a thinned shaft diameter. The blade design is basically like a spined version of the Attikamekw paddle design that is turning out to be one of my favourites. Also the flattened, short grip is one that I've seen before on other Iroquois paddles. Here is a shot of decorated Iroquois paddles from LiveAuctioneer that I posted on before.

Pair of Painted Iroquois Canoe Paddles, made of two piece hardwood, red and white painted blade, unpainted shaft; each 65.5" long. Ex Howard K. Echenstern Collection.


Lee said...

Nice looking paddle. Sorta reminded me of a Aleut paddle style.Of course with the one blade.


Wonder if the wood is Oak?

Murat said...

They are a nice, but forgotten design, it seems. I've found them great for long distance solo paddling.

Not sure if the wood was oak. In the poor lighting of the glass exhibit, it didn't look like it had the typical coarse, open grain of oak or ash. I've read that oak isn't really suited for one piece paddles. Despite being hard and tough, it is also very heavy, has limited flex and the green wood tends to shrink & warp considerably during the final drying out process. The only time I've seen oak used in paddles is for laminated edges and tips.


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