The skills required to build the canoes were passed on through generations of master builders. The joints were sewn with white pine roots, which were pulled up, split and boiled by native women. The frames were usually of cedar, soaked in water and bent to the shape of the canoe. The seams were made waterproof with spruce or pine resin gathered and applied with a hot stick. As the FUR TRADE grew, the natives could no longer supply all the canoes needed, and around 1750 the French set up a factory at Trois-Rivières.
The famous canot du maître, on which the fur trade depended, was up to 12 m long and carried 6 to 12 crew and a load of 2300 kg over the route from Montréal to Lake Superior. The smaller canot du nord carried a crew of 5 or 6 and a cargo of 1360 kg over the smaller lakes, rivers and streams of the Northwest. The canoes were propelled by narrow paddles with quick, continuous strokes, averaging 45 per minute.
The avant (bowsman) carried a larger paddle for maneuvering in rapids and the gouvernail (helmsman) stood in the stern. A canoe could manage 7 to 9 km per hour, and a special express canoe, carrying a large crew and little freight, could achieve up to 140 km in an 18-hour day. Most of inland Canada was first explored in birchbark canoes, and they were used for inland transportation until around 1820 when they began to be replaced by boats. See also YORK BOATS.
Author JAMES MARSH
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Mi'kmaq Portraits Collection
A fascinating collection of notes, annotated images and videos depicting Mi'kmaq communities, structures and culture. Check out the petroglyphs and other archaeological items. From the Nova Scotia Museum.
Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior
View an online image of Francis Anne Hopkins' dramatic painting "Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior." From the Glenbow Museum website.
Living Traditions: Museums Honour the North American Indigenous Games
This extensive multimedia Virtual Museum website showcases the fascinating array of athletic competitions and cultural events staged at the North American Indigenous Games.
Lessons from the Land: Idaa Trail
Take a virtual tour along the Idaa Trail, a traditional canoe route of the Tåîchô (Dogrib) people in the Northwest Territories. Click on the names along the trail to learn about the history of each site. See the teachers' guide and other sections of the extensive Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre website for more information.
Canadian Canoe Museum
The Canadian Canoe Museum is a unique national heritage centre that explores the canoe's enduring significance to the peoples of Canada. Take a virtual tour of the Museum's collection and exhibits to learn about Canada's canoeing heritage.
This fascinating website about the “Montreal Canoe”, the largest birchbark vessel ever used in Canada, features a collection of historical paintings depicting this splendid vessel. From the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Fort William Historical Park
The website for Fort William Historical Park, a major tourist attraction devoted to re-creating the days of the North West Company. Click on "Explore" for an interactive multimedia tour of the historical structures on this site. Click on "Hinge of an Empire" for a preview of a film that depicts the evolution of the fur trade and the roles of the North West Company and Fort William in early Canadian history and development.
Frances Anne Hopkins
A profile of Canadian artist Frances Anne Hopkins. From Library and Archives Canada.
Native Technology in the Fur Trade
This teacher's guide highlights innovative native technology. From the York Region District School Board.
Hudson's Bay Company: Heritage
This colourful HBC website documents over 300 years of company history. Features illustrated biographies of prominent personalities, an online art collection, e-books, historical games, timelines, interactive maps, and much more.
A virtual exhibition of “Codex canadiensis,” featuring Louis Nicolas' exquisite 17th century illustrated manuscript about the flora, fauna, and peoples of the New World. From Library and Archives Canada.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Seven Wonders of Canada
See highlights of the CBC's "Seven Wonders of Canada."