Simon Fraser’s expedition nearly dissolved into mutiny. It wasn’t long before the voyageurs came to the conclusion that this route wasn’t the best one after all. The river was so treacherous that their birchbark canoes were falling apart.
The voyageurs weren’t pleased at the prospect of carrying everything on their backs and borrowing canoes from the Native tribes they encountered along the way.
As Fraser’s expedition progressed down the river the Carrier and Secwapmec people warned him that the river he was following could not be navigated by canoe. Fraser, however, did not believe them.
If Fraser had listened to them, he would have learned that the best way to the coast was to follow Seton and Anderson Lakes from the junction of the Fraser River and Seton River, to the portage at Pemberton and then to follow the Lillooet and Harrison Rivers south to the coast. This route was the one that the Stat’imc had used to trade with coastal Ucwalmicw for centuries.
Tappan Adney (1868-1950) is widely recognized as one of the foremost canoe historians. At a time when traditional canoe building was fast disappearing, it is surprising to learn that many museums were uninterested. Perhaps it is because they didn’t recognize that there were so many variations of canoes.
There were canoes of varying shapes and sizes; formed to handle the local conditions of the rivers and oceans. Adney’s passion for canoes and canoe construction was clearly evident in his intricate detailed drawings and later his canoe models. Using precise measurements, Adney was able to recreate extinct canoes with virtually the same materials and techniques as was originally used.
Read more on the history of canoe building – visit my page on Tappan Adney.
Watch how a flat-bottom shovel-nosed canoe is carved from a 300-year-old cedar log:
For over a century, seven old-growth cedar logs lay buried under a logging road in the Stillaguamish River watershed until 2009 when they were finally unearthed. The logs were the remains of 300 year old trees that had once stood tall near the Stillaguamish River in Washington State.
The logs represented a signficant cultural gift to the Stillaguamish Tribe who had not received recognition or reserve lands until 1976.
As they prepared to carve a dugout canoe from one of these fallen trees, had to do a lot of research beforehand. This was the first canoe to be carved in their area in over a hundred years. The chief carver was Lummi artist Felix Solomon.
This canoe is typical of the traditional canoe used by the Coast Salish in the Puget Sound. Its flat bottom, wide body and blunt bow and stern allows it carry big loads and float easily in rough waters.