Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Indigenous Water Travel in the 1300s: Live Streamed Event

The Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston is hosting an event which may be of interest to those in the paddling community. See below:

Indigenous Water Travel in the 1300s and Beyond
by Rick Revelle
Date: Thursday, 2 December 2021 from 7:00 PM (EST) 9:00 PM (EST)

Rick joins the Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes to share his knowledge of Indigenous water travel in the pre-contact period. Join us as we explore the Great Lakes region before the building of roads and bridges, when knowledge of the waterways was a means of survival. Rick touches upon Indigenous trade routes, warfare and the role of the canoe using an extensive collection of artifacts.

About the Presenter: Rick is the author of The Algonquin Quest series. The series follows an Algonquin Native family unit as they fight to survive in the harsh climate of warfare, survival from the elements and the constant quest for food during the pre-contact period of 1320-1350s. The series takes place in the St Lawrence Valley, the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains. Rick introduces readers to the Algonquin, Anishinaabe, Lakota, Mi´kmaq, Mohawk, and Lakȟóta, languages as they are used in the vernacular in the four novels. The last of the series, Algonquin Legacy, is set to release in 2021.

Rick is a member of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and is a Knowledge Keeper with the Limestone District and Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic School Boards.

Tickets for the event (for both in-person and virtual attendance) can be purchased through the following link:


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Thanksgiving Paddle - Early Morning birding at the Toronto Islands

It's been a very long time since the last post and quite a while since actually enjoying a noteworthy paddle. Took advantage of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday to get an early day trip to the Toronto Islands with the hope of seeing some active wildlife. Got on the water about 1/2 hour after sunrise to an empty Cherry Beach.

Trees have started changing but the colours are still in the early phase of their transition. This shot of the Eastern Gap to the harbour showcases the lush greenery of the islands in contrast to the industrial section of the Portlands.

My leisurely paddle in the early morning was rewarded with an sighting of a mink resting amongst the boulders of the islands' northern breakwall. His coat was brown and grey and the clever fellow even sported some moss as a bit of camouflage on his back. 

A little further on, I spotted the head of a beaver swimming close to shore. 

The calm waters of the inner canals were quite peaceful this early in the morning.

Here's a photo from the 'Sunfish Cut', a very much photographed viewpoint of the city skyline.

Just to the left of this shot I came across the first of many (seven) different Great Blue Heron sightings. This one was actively hunting and focused only on its prey completely unconcerned with the human in the red canoe.

There are few favourite spots that have been left in a naturalised condition instead of being maintained as manicured parkland by the city authorities. These areas are usually loaded with lots of dead fall and weeds and don't see much traffic. I make it point to go through them and often just wait for other bird sightings.

Here's a shot of immature, Black-Crowned night Heron hiding along the shoreline.

Also spotted a  smaller, but mature Green Heron perched atop some driftwood spying for minnows below. 

Suddenly, I heard a prehistoric sounding loud croak above me and spotted another Great Blue Heron atop a tree.

Navigating around the many fallen logs and debris of the channel, it became quickly apparent that this was spot was also Turtle heaven. Many different sizes and types were out of the water warming up in the morning sun.

Numerous blue jays began squawking loudly and were harassing a Red-Tailed Hawk in the vicinity. The Hawk found relief by perching on dead tree. Could't get the best shot here.

Moving on to interior of the islands close to the shuttered amusement park, these trees caught my eye. The creeping vines wrapped around the trunks have turned into a brilliant scarlet colour while the leaves on the trees were a bright yellow. The combination made them seem like they were right out of a fantasy movie.

Due to Covid, all the animals at the Island Farm have been moved to another location. Paddling next to the empty corrals and barn was quite silent and little sad.

Headed over to another marshy lagoon off the beaten track where I captured a shot of Great Egret hunting next to another Great Blue Heron. Think these two birds compete for the same food supply and habitat but there seemed to be no animosity between them. Having them positioned so close allowed for a wonderful chance to compare their sizes, with the Great Blue noticeable larger.

The white plumage makes the Great Egret stand out against the shoreline. A second one was at the other end of the Marsh and while lining up the photo, I noticed yet another Blue Heron peaking out behind some shrubbery to the right. 

Paddling a bit more in the weed choked lagoon, I spotted another Great Blue that blended in nearly perfectly with the greyish dead fall along the shore. This one remained perfectly still while I paddle by.

Above me I heard some more trill-like shrieks and noticed another raptor perched on a dead tree branch. Noticeable smaller than the Red-Tailed Hawk from earlier, this one had the marking of Peregrine Falcon.

As I paddled closer to try and get a better photo, it took off but in its place, another hoarse croak spooked me. Seems like I got too close to another,very perturbed looking Heron.

I got the message and paddled off to a final favourite spot, a tiny little pond reached through a shallow stream. Water levels are low here usually requiring getting out a dragging for a bit. No big deal. The reward was a third sighting of another Great Egret.

By this time it was nearing 1pm and the crowds of leisure seeking city dwellers had come to the islands. A slew of motorboats, jet skis and loud human voices  pretty much ended any chance of not disturbing any more of the wildlife so turned around and headed back. It definitely pays to get paddle this area as early as possible. Still to be about a mile or so offshore from Canada's largest urban centre, the Toronto Islands offers some pretty wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Ciscos Gallery: Penobscot style paddle

Another paddle showcased by Cisco's Gallery advertised as a "Native Carved Canoe Paddle". It features the classic Penobscot stepped grip motif and is identified as carved from Birch.

Native Carved Canoe Paddle
Item Number: V69
SIZE: 60"L; Paddle 6"
Comments: Native carved canoe paddle with stylised notching and handle. Carved of birch, much patina from use. Paddle strong but very light.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Historic Paddle Photo: Guide Andrew Nicholas Penobscot / Maliseet Paddle

Here's a beautiful historic pic of native guide Andrew Nicholas (November 1, 1869 - July 10, 1935) in the act of carving a paddle with bushtools...

A brief bio online mentions Nicholas was born at Chesuncook, ME and worked  primarily as a sporting guide. Through living in Penobscot territory his heritage was Maliseet from the the L'isle Verte region of Quebec.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Atikamekw paddles at the Université de Montreal

The Collection ethnographique of the Université de Montreal houses some Atikamekw artefacts which form the basis of an indigenous watercraft display.

The birchbark canoe canoe was made by Albert Biroté (1899-1977), an Atikamekw master craftsman from Wemotaci (Haute-Mauricie) in 1974. It was commissioned at the request of Norman Clermont, archaeologist from the anthropology department of the University of Montreal, as part of his investigation into the history of Wemotaci and the material culture of its inhabitants. 

Clermont's research was eventually published as a book entitled, La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie. I was able to find a rare copy of this book housed at the Royal Ontario Museum's library. The publication contains a grainy image of the set of paddles also carved by Albert Biroté to accompany the canoe (see original post here).

La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie 
Norman Clermont (‎1982) 

A second sketch appears in the book providing a closeup of the decorative element...

La culture matérielle des indiens de Weymontachie 
Norman Clermont (‎1982) 

New colour photos from the university reveal some more details of the paddle set, including closeup views of the deeply etched leaf patterns on the decorated handle. Curiously, this longer paddle of the two has been labelled as an "Aviron de Femme", a "Woman's paddle". Most other samples of gender specific paddles labelled by other museums and documentation (like Adney's description of Male / Female Cree paddles) had noted the shorter length of paddles typically utilised by women.

Aviron de femme
Item No: 75.5.3
Maple, Varnished
DIMENSIONS: L. 143.5 cm x l. 10.2 cm
DESCRIPTION: Oar in varnished maple. Handle decorated with flower motifs carved on both sides enhanced by light burning of the backwood.

The second paddle, plainly carved in birch features a much smaller bulb grip and is a few centimetres shorter.

Aviron d'homme
Item No. 75. 75.5.2
DIMENSIONS: 134 cm x  13 cm

Friday, February 26, 2021

Antique Woodland Paddle (Nova Scotia)

Here's another antique paddle showcased by Cisco's Gallery advertised as a "Native Carved Canoe Paddle" from Nova Scotia.

Item Number: M579
Native Carved Canoe Paddle
SIZE: 74" Blade 5"
PERIOD: First half 19th Century
ORIGIN: Nova Scotia, Canada

The upper portion of the blade features crudely carved initials...

For comparison, see the a similarly shape "Northeast Woodlands" paddle  found in the collection of The Museum Volkenkunde (National Museum of Ethnology) in the Netherlands.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Huronia Land Conservancy & 2021 PADDLING Film Festival


The annual Paddling Film Festival showcases the very best paddling films of the year. Now in its 16th year, the festival celebrates the wild and the people who appreciate it through canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

For 2021, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and current restrictions on public gatherings, they've adapted the the typical theatre screenings of their planned 130+ city tour. This year local hosts will offer virtual online streaming programs through the purchase of a digital ticket. For $15 US, one can purchase a digital key for films either in the "Adventure", "Adrenaline" or "Culture" categories which permit a three day rental of the films in each section. 

One such local host is the Huronia Land Conservancy, a non-profit, charitable organization committed to the long-term protection of natural and/or cultural heritage in the historic Huronia district of Ontario. Through Land Trust agreements, the HLC works to acquire and protect land and preserve it in its natural state in perpetuity. 

Here is a message from the Huron Land Conservancy regarding the partnership with the film festival.

" In partnership with Paddling magazine, the Festival's sponsor, HLC is making these films available to you through the purchase of this key. A percentage of the proceeds will accrue to the Conservancy and all those proceeds will go to further its work, which currently is focusing on the acquisition of two properties. Your ticket price will not only welcome you to the world of paddling, it will be of invaluable assistance to the HLC. Thank you for your support."

For those who are looking for something to break the monotony of our current Covid lockdown, this could be a welcome event with a Charitable cause. The digital key ticket can be purchased at the following link:


You are also eligible for an additional 10% off by using the following code:  HURONIALANDCONSERVANCY10

Monday, February 8, 2021

Full sized Ungava Cree paddle - 1884

The Smithsonian has a remarkable sample of an Naskapi Cree (Innu) paddle from Ungava collected during Lucien M. Turner's expedition to the region in 1884. The resulting 1894 publication Ethnology of the Ungava district, Hudson Bay Territory unfortunately didn't include sketches of this paddle. The grip features a pointed, bulbous tip with the blade featuring the typical decorative elements of bars and dots.

Ungava Cree (Naspaki Innu) canoe paddle
Collector(s): Turner, L. M.
District/County: Ungava Bay, Quebec
Catalog Number: E90136-0
Accession Date: 9 Jan 1884
Accession Number: 013922

Friday, January 29, 2021

Full-Sized Hudson Museum c1900 Penobscot Replica

 Many years ago, I came across a beautifully sculpted paddle being sold at auction. It was cited as a Penobscot design but was somewhat unique as it was carved from softwood rather than typical Wabanaki paddles. A long one at 77", the paddle showed signs of usage but also featured a delicately shaped grip complete with floral and geometric etchings.

Rather than ending up in an obscure private collection, the paddle was purchased by the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine. Additional photos taken by the museum of the opposite side revealed the grip etchings had remnants of red paint matching the blade.

The museum has now added the paddle to their Wabanaki  gallery as seen in this YouTube footage and it looks to be right at home in front of a 19 foot Penobscot bark canoe.

Back in 2012, I made a reduced-scaled, shorter version of this from a piece of Sassafras and burned the decoration. I've used it on occasion, but decided to make a full sized, 77" replica from a clear section of of a 2 by 10 spruce board. I started the initial shaping with an axe and have been steadily working on it on thinning out the blade with a crooked knife.

Given all the late season distraction work done on the Trapper Canoe restoration, work on this paddle was a little slow. Eventually it was shaped down and scraped smooth ready for the decoration just as the weather turned

The etching on the handle was replicated with a rotary tool and the cavities filled with opaque, red milk paint. The blade was also painted while the bright spruce was stained with a gel stain in order to mimic the weathered patina of the original. On Christmas Day, we were gifted with 15 cm of fresh snow that made taking photos even more picturesque. 

At 77" with a nearly 3 foot long blade this is the longest paddle I've attempted. Should be great for some stand-up paddling once paddling season begins again in the spring.

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