Birch Bark Canoes
Brad Grandgeorge
Section A

History
Birch bark canoes were a very important item to many Native American tribes. The birch bark canoe was first developed by the Haida Indian tribe of Quebec. They thought of using birch bark to create canoes because it would come off of the trees in large sheets during the late winter early spring. Many people speculate that the canoes were adopted very fast because they were easier to construct than dugout canoes, but for the main reason that they were much lighter and could be portaged by 1 person. Many tribes utilized the birch bark canoe including; Malecite, Abnaki, Chippewa, and Algonquin tribes. The fur trade was the main reason for needing these canoes. They were very light for their length and could carry hundreds of pounds of weight. The canoes became very important in Canada, especially Quebec, because of the 500,000 lakes. They did not make many birch bark canoes in the plains because it was easier for the plains Indians to walk around what few lakes there were.

pictures of birch bark canoes can be see at http://www.bearfortlodge.com/bearfort_lodge/2006/10/birch-bark-canoe/

How Birch Bark Canoes Were Made
Birch bark canoes were the easiest of all the canoes to make. There were only four materials needed by the Native Americans to construct these vessels which were; white birch bark, white cedar, spruce roots, and spruce gum. The white birch bark was used as the outer skin of the canoe. It was used because it was water proof, and would come off the tree in one large piece. White cedar was used for the ribs of the canoe. It was used because it was easy to shape once steamed. The ribs of the canoe were placed every two inches. Spruce roots were used as the thread for the canoe. They used spruce roots because they were very durable, yet manageable. The roots are what tied the birch bark to the top rib of the canoe. Lastly, was spruce gum, it was used as a sealant to make sure the bark and ribs wouldn’t leak. They used many tools to help build these canoes. They used axes, sharp rocks, and knives. The process was very precise. Stakes were placed in the ground in the shape that they wanted the canoe, and then they began to build the canoe inside of the stakes. This process had a lot of factors such as drying time that influenced how long it took to build, but a tribe could build several canoes at once in a matter of a few weeks.
external image iroqcanoe.jpg

Types Of Birch Bark Canoes
There were many types of birch bark canoes. They had different types for hunting, fishing, travel, and carrying goods. Hunting and fishing canoes were smaller than the other types, ranging from nine to ten feet in length. Travel canoes were very long and would range from ten to twenty-four feet in length. Travel canoes were able to carry up to 50 paddlers at one time; paddlers would ride in the canoe on their knees as there were no seats in these canoes.




Birch Bark Biting
Angelique Merasty and birch bark biting
Angelique Merasty and birch bark biting

Birch bark biting was an art form started by the Chippewa women in order to keep the children pre-occupied and out of trouble. It was then realized that they could make beautiful and intricate designs in the bark. Many women co
ntributed their talents by making birch biting designs, and decorating the canoes with them. Many birch bark biting designs were done and then gone over using a quill or beadwork. Many tribes used these markings as a way to identify their specific canoe amongst others.


Conclusion
In conclusion birch bark canoes were used by many Indian tribes, especially in Canada and the New England States. The canoes were easy to construct, light weight, and were able to carry heavy loads. There were different types of canoes that fit the purpose for the specific task designed for them. Many of the canoes had designs on the bow and stern created by birch bark biting techniques. Today birch bark canoe classes, videos, and books are on the market, which hopefully brings back the wonderful birch bark canoes and their history.



Works Cited

" Facts for Kids: Ojibwa Indians (Chippewas, Ojibways)." Orrin's Website. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.bigorrin.org/chippewa_kids.htm>. from this site I found that the Chippewa Indians used birch bark canoes
"BIRCHBARK CANOES: THEÂ CLASSIC BOATS ." The Antique & Classic Boat Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.acbs.org/rudder/oldrudder/Rudder/Spring2000/Birchbark.htm>. This site provided the canoes most used in Quebec. Also white birch was most prevalent species
"Birch Bark Canoe." Birch Bark Canoe. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.birchbarkcanoe.net/>. Learned that Malecite/Abnaki/Algonquin tribes used canoes. Also cedar ribs every two inches
"Birch-Bark Biting - The Canadian Encyclopedia." The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0000762>. Site described birch biting to put designs on canoes
"Birchbark Canoes." NEWTON, Ask a Scientist!. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/400-499/nb463.htm>. site describes history of canoes, and their benefits and features
Blaeu, Willem J., and Amsterdam.. "NativeTech: Native American Birchbark Canoes." NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.nativetech.org/brchbark/canoe.htm>. site described length and weight capacities of birch bark canoes.
"Building a Birchbark Canoe." Jumaka - Portfolio. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.jumaka.com/birchbarkcanoe/toolspage/tools.htm>. This site described the tools used to build a birch bark canoe.
"Building birchbark canoes - step by step instructions." Canadian Native Art - a Cultural Perspective by an Ojibwa Artist. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.native-art-in-canada.com/birchbark-canoes.html>. Site gave me an understanding of how much they could carry.
"Canoes." White Oak Society - Deer River, Minnesota. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.whiteoak.org/learning/canoes.shtml>. This site explains why they were used and desired over other types of canoes.
"Crafts, Folk Art and Ethnic Culture." Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.sicc.sk.ca/saskindian/a80may23.htm>. This site I acquired a picture of a women biting birch bark
"Custom BIrch Bark Canoe by Artisan John Lindman." Log Cabin Maintenance Tips, Guidance and the Art of Log Home Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.bearfortlodge.com/bearfort_lodge/2006/10/birch-bark-canoe/>. This is the site I acquired the picture of the birch bark canoe.
"History of the Birchbark Canoe." Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.sicc.sk.ca/saskindian/a75oct3008.htm>. This site explained that birch bark was used because it did not need processing prior to use
"India Herbs : Herbal Glossary : Canoe Birch." India Herbs - Ancient Remedies for Modern Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.india-herbs.com/herbal_glossary/id/838>. this site describe that birch bark is water proof
"Indigenous Boats: Bark Canoe Resources." Indigenous Boats. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://indigenousboats.blogspot.com/2008/07/bark-canoe-resources.html>. This site lists resources for birch bark canoes, today.
Location. "Haida Indian Tribe History." Access Genealogy: A Free Genealogy Resource. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/canada/haidaindianhist.htm>. This site explained about the Haida Indians, and their affiliation with the birch bark canoe
"The Chipewyans." Memories Of Deep River - Ile A-La-Crosse, Saskatchewan.. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.jkcc.com/chipewyans.html>. This site explained where the canoes were utilized.
"Welcome. What are birchbark letters? « The Birchbark Letters." The Birchbark Letters. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://birchbarkletters.com/about/>. This site is where I acquired my picture of the fishing group in birch bark canoes.
"White Birch." Welcome to marlin | marlin. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2011. <http://www.bio.umass.edu/biology/conn.river/whiteb.html>. This site explained the many different types of birch bark canoes
"birch bark biting." baribal - de indianenclub. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.baribal.nl/educatief/spreekbeurt/birchbarkbiting_en.html>. This site explained about the Chippewa and the art of birch bark biting.
itself. "Making A Birchbark Canoe." Northwest Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. <http://www.northwestjournal.ca/VIII4.htm>. This site explained the materials that went into building a birch bark canoe.


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