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Ottertooth Forums * Temagami general * Archive through August 10, 2005 * Birchbark canoe-building < Previous Next >

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dave_l
Member

Post Number: 1
Registered: 03-2004
Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - 7:12 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

I read with interest the post made by Chip on December 12. The remark that caught my atttention was his description of the birch trees on north slope of Maple Mountain "They were awesome, straight as anything and smooth up at least 20-30 feet".

Recently I have been doing some research into birchbark canoe building. Most of the current or recently passed away native birchbark canoe builders seem to be from western Quebec. I can find very little evidence of birchbark canoe construction in the Temagami area.

Certainly the use of the birchbark canoe was common place at the turn of the century but it seemed to disappear very quickly once canvas canoes became available.

It seems to me that there must be a history of birchbark canoe building in the temagami area. All of the raw materials are readily available - lots of spruce root, cedar and based on Chip's post some good quality canoe birch. In addition, like similar locations in western Quebec, Temagami was fairly isolated until the early 1900's and would likely rely on locally constructed canoes.

I would appreciate greatly it if anyone with any knowlege on this subject would share it. Thanks.

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flight
Member

Post Number: 2
Registered: 08-2004
Posted on Monday, February 7, 2005 - 1:48 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

I wonder how old the birch forest is on Maple Mountain. Perhaps the canoe building in the temagami area (and logging) was so feverish at one time that they ran out of good trees for birch and reverted to canvas or purchased their canoes from the Crees in Quebec(guessing). Then following a later forest fire the Maple Mountain birches grew in.
You probably have come aross the Adney-Chapelle Smithsonian canoe book in your research.. I see in it that the Algonquin canoes look identical to the Ojibway canoes in that area. And I also have a film made by Henri Vaillancourt of a traditional birch canoe being built in 1985 by two men in Maniwaki. That canoe looks like the two I mentioned above.
All this is supposition, but it is one possible explanation why there is ( if there is ) a lack of evidence for a lot of canoe building.
It's hard to imagine that there was not some vestigial canoe building going on there no matter how many birches were depleted.
joe
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dendrast
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Post Number: 11
Registered: 07-2004
Posted on Monday, February 7, 2005 - 10:06 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post

Glen Guppy (now deceased) was a birch-bark builder. I believe that his last canoe is at the community centre at Bear Island. He used local materials.
There is an entry for Temagami in the Adney-Chappel book. The example shown is of an 18' canoe. This makes sense. The most popular canoes with the 'traditional' tripping camps in the area are 17' wood-canvas, an 'oversized' canoe by many people's estimation. However, the lakes are large, which would make a seaworthy canoe an advantage, and the portages are (mostly) relatively short, which makes it possible to carry this larger vessel.
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dave_l
Member

Post Number: 2
Registered: 03-2004
Posted on Friday, March 11, 2005 - 9:21 am:   Edit Post Delete Post

Thanks for the information dendrast. I will make a point of gong to see the Glen Guppy canoe when next up.

Below is an extract from a Newsletter I received from John Lindman of the Barkcanoe store. The the article suggests that there is local native elder expertise in birchbark canoe building. }}

"Build Your Own Canoe on Lake Temagami - The Land of Grey Owl

...We will be on an island just north of Bear Island. Last year one of the leaders of the Bear Island Ojibwe came to help us on the canoe we were building. Most likely we will have some of them present with us this year.

The place is called "North Waters". It is a canoe expedition camp and the site of this year's "build your own canoe class". The class costs $3700 which includes the tuition of $695, the home study class, the book The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America, all the materials for a 14ft canoe (your choice of style), the building site prepared, all tools needed, lodging in one of the cabins and delicious meals served in the lodge. You are allowed to bring others to assist in building your canoe. They only have to pay a reduced meals/lodging fee of $900 for the 15 day program. (they would be your assistants not my students so their questions would be directed to you - no free class). If you plan to fly to North Bay, Ontario which is 1 hour south of Temagami we will arrange to pick you up and drop you off at the airport. Shipping of your finished canoe can be arranged.






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