Monday, October 30, 2017

Circa 1850 Eastern Woodland Paddle Replica

I've started a batch of replicas based on some historic paddles in various museums and artworks. One intriguing paddle is  Artifact Number III-X-320  in the collection of the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Candian Museum of Civilization). Described loosely as affiliated with the "Eastern Woodlands" culture, it features a two-toned painted decoration on the blade.  This dual tone motif has caught my attention recently and appears in some historic artworks by James Peachey.

Artifact Number: III-X-320
Inscription: incised on one side of blade "A. HATT"
Begin Date 1845/01/01
End Date 1855/12/31
Measurements Length 125.0 cm, Width 9.0 cm, Depth 2.7 cm

Cultural Affiliation: Eastern Woodlands

Closeup of Dual tone paddle
 "A View of the Ruins of the Fort at Cataraqui taken in June 1783 by James Peachey" 
 Credits:  Library and Archives Canada C-2031
Full post here

Normally, I like to adjust the paddle dimensions if the paddle is not my preferred functional length of 58", but this time, a decision was made to replicate the design in its original size. This one would be a relatively short 49" long.

My version was made out of basswood, a light-coloured and easy carving wood.  Unfortunately, after taking multiple photos of this paddle (and others) during the carving stages earlier this summer, the memory card was damaged and is now unreadable. All those images can't seemed to be recovered. Dah!

At any rate, after the paddle had been carved, some MinWax Gel Stain  was used to darken the paddle shaft and give it an aged look, something that might be done on future paddles as well. For the paint, I ended up using Tremclad oil-based rust paint which offers nice opaque coverage on the wood as well as being waterproof. The whole thing was finished with multiple coats of protective oil.

Ca 1850 "Eastern Woodlands" replica

The small bulb of a grip is just barely wider than the shaft and is most comfortable when holding the paddle laterally rather than a typical grip across the top. The weather has turned chilly and windy so testing this one out will likely need to wait until spring.

Side by Side comparison

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Mid 1990s Northwoods Paddles (Alexandra Conover)

From this Ebay Seller comes a pair of Northwoods paddles carved by Alexandra Conover.

Stern ( 66 1/4" ) & Bow ( 60 1/4" ) Northwoods Paddles
Source Link: Ebay Ad

Both paddles are hand signed with the inscription  "Northwoods Paddle Alexandra S.B. Conover 4/94". The shorter bow paddle is numbered 301 and the taller stern paddle numbered 302.

Monday, October 23, 2017

History Museum Mi'kmaq Canoe Display with Paddles

Mi'kmaw Canoe Builder Todd Labrador was commissioned to build a new 18.5 foot Ocean- Going birchbark canoe for the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilizations). Photo documentation of the build as well as additional information can be read in this article here.

Haven't seen the museum display myself, but found a pic online which showcases the curious lines and construction style of these ancient craft. Hanging behind the canoe are two paddles which I was able to source back to the history museum's collection.

The top paddle (Object Code III-F-364) was made in 1992 by Mi'kmaw craftsman Rene Martin. The other weathered paddle below looks to be Object Code III-J-206, an Abenaki paddle with an unknown date (but prior to 1973).

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chicago Field Museum: Odawa and Naskapi (Innu) Paddle Display

Searching through their collections of  the Chicago Field Museum (formerly the Field Museum of Natural History)  revealed some paddles that have been part of their previous displays. Among them is a model associated with the Odawa (Ottawa) tribe acquired in Ontario for display in the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893.

Here is a cropped pic of the paddle which features a straight sided blade shape and a small elongated grip. The blade end has been decorated with paint while the upper portion features geometric etchings not unlike the Odawa paddle at the Logan Museum of Anthropology.

Canoe Paddle
Catalog Number: 15388 
Cultural Attribution: Ottawa 
Locality: North America, Canada, Ontario, Queen Sound
Accession Number: [47] E. N. Brown (Gift)
Country: Canada 
Province/State: Ontario
District/County: Queen Sound
Collector/Source: E. N. Brown, World's Columbian Exposition - Department of Ethnology
IRN: 1056314

Also in the display is a model of a Naskapi (Innu) paddle...

Canoe Paddle
Catalog Number: 177305 
Description: paddle
Cultural Attribution: Montagnais-Naskapi
Locality: North America, Canada, Quebec, Labrador, Davis Inlet Band
Accession Year: 1928 
Collector/Source: Rawson-MacMillan Subarctic Expedition for Field Museum, W. D. Strong 
IRN: 1080712

This previous post discussed the paddle forms documented by William D. Strong during his research of the Naskapi Cree (Innu) culture in 1927-1928. James VanStone's publication, Material culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi: The William Duncan Strong Collection outlines many of the ethnographic items collected during this expedition. Unfortunately when it came to full sized paddles, no photos were taken but instead, Plate 49 (pg 89) featured a hand sketched diagram of 4 decorated pieces acquired for the collection. The model looks to be similar to Paddle A from the display.

Material culture of the Davis Inlet and Barren Ground Naskapi 

The coloured lines and markings were made with an orange / red or blue pigment, similar to other model Innu paddles in other collections (see post here). As to the meaning or significance of the motifs, page 38 has a brief writeup outlining his conclusions:

"Strong's informants, on the other hand, denied  any design symbolism or any relationship of the decorative motifs on their clothing and other objects to dream experiences. Rather, such designs as occur on moccasins, clothing borders, head-bands, and cartridge cases were purely decorative. Strong noted that design symbolism was not denied categorically but, nevertheless, in detail and with certainty. While believing it possible that people no longer remembered the meaning and significance of such symbols, he also was aware that in general his informants were evasive concerning most matters relating to religion. For example, he was certain that although the red and blue designs on men's snowshoes served primarily as identification marks, they also had magical significance. Informants confirmed that the markings brought good luck in traveling and hunting, but the ethnographer could obtain no interpretation for the meaning of particular designs"

Monday, October 16, 2017

Historic Paddle Photo: Fossil Rock - Dalhousie, New Brunswick

From the 1920 publication,  New Brunswick, Canada, available on is this image of a Mi'kmaq bark canoe taken at Fossil Rock, Dalhousie New Brunswick.

 Paddle Closeup

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Historical Paddle Illustration: Peachey - Ruins at Fort Frontenac 1783

Here is another vista painting by British Officer James Peachey (active 1773-1797). This one  entitled, "A View of the Ruins of the Fort at Cataraqui taken in June 1783"

"A View of the Ruins of the Fort at Cataraqui taken in June 1783 by James Peachey" 
 Credits:  Library and Archives Canada C-2031

The canoe in the bottom right features a decorated, dual tone paddle not unlike the paddles in another of Peachey's work from the same area, "Southeast view of Cataraqui on Lake Ontario, 1785" (see link to that post here). Unfortunately the colour version doesn't seem to be available in higher resolution but a black and white version of the scene with a better closeup is below:

Dual Tone Paddle Closeup

Friday, October 6, 2017

Musee Civilisation de Quebec Paddles

The Musee de la Civilisation de Quebec (MCQ) has recently updated their web interface and online  database and they have some wonderful, full-sized paddles in their collection. The database required searching using the French words "pagaie" and "aviron" but revealed some antique designs of various tribal affiliations.

Abenaki Paddle
Mid 19th Century
 162.7 cm x 14.6cm

Huron Wendat
 159.2 cm x 11.7 cm

Lac St. Jean Innu
Inscription painted in dark beige and red:
160.5 cm x 9.0cm

Mid 19th Century
 170.2 cm x 16.7cm 

One unusual design is a square bladed Mi'kmaq paddle with different thickened shaft design at the midpoint, presumably to increase strength.

Square tip Mi'kmaq
Mid 19th Century
 145.0 cm x 13.8 cm

Monday, October 2, 2017

100+ Year Old Mi'kmaq Canoe - Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

Came across an interesting article regarding a new exhibit at the The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic  in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

At the centre of the new exhibit entitled "First Fishers" is a  15.5 ft birchbark canoe that was constructed by Mi’kmaq builders in the early 1900s.  Constructed from oak, spruce root, birchbark and iron nails, it was made by Steven and Newel Labrador around 1910 at the Mi’kmaq settlement in Paradise for the late Rice Whitman at the cost of $1 per foot.

The canoe was apparently used for hunting and fishing in the backwoods of Nova Scotia until 1947. Passing to his son and then his daughter-in-law, Margaret, the canoe sat untouched in the basement of the Whitman home for decades.  The beautiful looking boat has survived well over the century and appears to have come with two paddles.

1910 Mi'kmaq Forest Hunting Canoe

After doing a bit more research online, I came across the page of Grant Murray Designs who appears to have been the consultant for the exhibit. The canoe has been placed in a humidity controlled case and another paddle is mounted on the wall.

First Fishers Mi'kmaq Canoe
Image Source Credit: Grant Murray Designs

The grip profile of one of the paddles is just visible resting on the thwart of the canoe.

First Fishers Mi'kmaq Canoe
Image Source Credit: Grant Murray Designs

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