Friday, May 14, 2010

Historic Paddle Illustration - Paul Kane Paddles

Paul Kane (1810-1871) was an Irish-born Canadian painter whose artwork serves as an insightful ethnographic record into the lives of First Nations people of the period. In a few of his paintings and sketches, canoe paddles can be seen oriented into a cooking tripod for use over an open fire.

In the pencil sketch entitled Indian Encampment, Sault Ste. Marie below, a single paddle is lashed with some saplings to form the tripod structure.

Indian Encampment, Sault Ste. Marie (Southeastern Ojibway)
August 1845

A sketch entitled Eleven Studies of Indian Life, includes a set of three paddles (lower left) illustrating another tripod image.

Eleven Studies of Indian Life, Southeastern Ojibway
Paul Kane (1810-1871)
Pencil on paper
14 cm x 21.5 cm
August 1845

Paddle Tripod Closeup

It seems these sketches were used in a full colour painting entitled, Indian Encampment at Georgian Bay around 1850. The paddle tripod is clearly visible on the left side of the image.

Indian Encampment at Georgian Bay
Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1995-215-1
ca. 1850

It seems the First Nations used their paddles in a very utilitarian manner, often for more than the obvious role. I wouldn't be carrying 3 paddles on a solo canoe trip, but it is nonetheless an interesting bit of bushcraft history.


Anonymous said...

Is it possible they put the paddles in that position to dry the wood out?

Murat said...

I guess it would be possible, but each of the tripods illustrated by Kane has a cooking pot suspended over a low burning fire so the assumption is that the primary function was for cooking. Kane was pretty meticulous about documenting the details around him. Ray Mears has brief footage of a paddle tripod on one of his canoe / bushcraft films. Link is here with the image around the 3:30 mark.

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