Birch Bark Canoe

Transportation in the Summer by Canoe:

Most Secwepemc people lived near a source of water. These areas were abundant in food and a major waterway provided greater access to travel.

Most travel was done on foot. When long distances had to be covered a more efficient means was to travel by water using a canoe.

One type of canoe was the dugout canoe. These canoes were used mainly in the rivers and were made of cottonwood. It took a whole winter season to complete a canoe. Some were hollowed out by using a fire to burn out the inside wood. Sometimes steam from red hot rocks allowed the wooden canoes to be shaped and moulded. Others ways to hollow the canoe was to use an adze or chisel when finer detail was required.

Bark canoes were made of birch bark. These light canoes were used mainly in the lakes. The ribs and seats were usually made of a harder wood for sturdiness and strength. The seams were sewn with roots and the lacing was waterproofed using heated pitch which acted like a water repellent. If pitch was picked fresh it would be ready to use like a glue.

As Leona Thomas, past museum curator said, the birch bark canoe is like a sleek race car and the dugout is like a Cadillac.

Dugout Canoes


Archival photo of snowshoes


Transportation in the Winter by Snowshoe:

Snowshoes allowed easier travel over snow-covered ground. They were made of maple or juniper because of their hardness and strength. With time and patience, wet wood or steamed wood could be bent to any desired angle. Lacing made of rawhide was used to make the snowshoe web.

Activity: Carving

Wouldn't it be fun to make your own dugout canoe? You will need the help of an adult for this activity. You will need a small chisel and a piece of wood. Have the adult show you how to safely use the tools. You will then need to make the wood into a canoe shape. Then use the chisel to dig out the middle of your canoe. Once you are done fill up the bathtub and put your canoe in the water for it's first voyage.

Important Information to Remember:

  • Dugout canoes were made of cottonwood.
  • Hollowing out a dugout canoe was done several different ways. For example, the inside could be burned out and then an adze and chisel used to chip away the inside. Steam and red hot rocks helped in shaping the canoe.
  • Some canoes were made of birch bark.
  • Snowshoes were made of juniper or maple because of the hardness and strength. The lacing was made of rawhide.