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Canoe Kit

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Continued from product description on Native American's Page One...

Historical Background: Canoes may well be Man's earliest boat when he made dugout canoes from tree trunks. This type of canoe was originally made by burning one side of a log to hollow it out. It was probably during the Bronze Age that Man began carving or hacking out the tree's core for a boat. As Man became more sophisticated with his tools and skills to use them, so did his canoes.

In parts of North America, Native Americans made small boats constructed of birch bark and cedar trees. The bark was held together with tree roots and tree gum. This type of canoe later became an important means of transportation for early European explorers and fur traders in the New World.

The size of canoes ranged from 40-foot vessels for transporting cargo to the smaller passenger canoes. Canoes for 2-4 people were sleek in design and highly efficient for maneuvering in rivers and on lakes. Huge oceangoing dugouts were used along the Pacific Ocean's northern coast of North America. Canoes used by French fur traders in Canada could carry up to 12 people, along with a cargo weighing around 2,400 kilograms. Some Native Americans built canoes to an incredible size and could carry up to 50 paddlers!

The intended use of a canoe dictated its design. This was truly a water craft where form followed function. Besides dugout and bark canoes, there were also closed-deck kayaks used in northern waters where the water is frigid. The design of a canoe was dictated by the local materials and conditions where it was built. Each canoe was also unique. Every canoe builder contributed his individual skills and cultural traditions to the overall design. Canoes and kayaks were designed for transportation, hunting, fishing, trade, warfare, gifts, and ceremonies.

Using canoes (and kayaks) requires strength and speed from the paddler(s). These are the same skills needed for canoe racing. By the way, racing contests were another use of canoes by Native Americans.

Birch bark canoes were generally used in the northeastern United States as well as the central and southeastern regions of Canada. The bark of birch trees was used to "skin" the wooden ribs of the canoe's hull. This bark was usually stitched together with spruce roots, and spruce gum was used to seal the cracks so it would not let water get inside the canoe. As with other types of canoes, the birch bark canoe's overall design and construction were influenced by its intended use. Canoes were specifically built to travel across smooth, rough, and fast-running waters such as lakes, coastal shores, and rivers, respectively speaking.

Birch bark was an ideal material for canoes. It is not only lightweight, waterproof, and resilient; the inside of the bark is smooth and allows the canoe to easily glide or "cut through" water. When one thinks of a birch bark canoe, one might tend to image a canoe with white birch bark sides. However, the white side of the bark was always on the inside of the canoe because of its rough surface.

One characteristic associated with canoes is the shape of the bow and stern. This "tapered-ends look," however, also varied according to the region where the canoe was built. No matter which variety of form a canoe had, it was an optimal solution for a given need. This is why canoes have remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years!

Fun Fact: The French fur trade business created such a demand for canoes, that the first known canoe factory was established around 1750 in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada.

Fun Fact: Bark canoes were stored in one of two ways. They were either kept from excessive light and moisture by being elevated upside-down, covered and placed in a shaded area; or, they were weighted down with rocks and completely submerged in a lake or pond!

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Canoe Kit
Canoe Kit
Item Number 6003

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