Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hiawatha's Canoe VII - Supplementary Remarks

Supplement to my "Hiawatha's Canoe":
Jim Dina of South Windsor, Connecticut, is a member of the Society of Primitive Technology who builds canoes with only those tools of flint, stone, wood, bone and antler used by Native Americans before  the advent of the White Man. He has built canoes of birchbark, elm bark and spruce bark and has carved and gouged out a dugout, all with primitive tools.
He described his birchbark canoe project in an article in a 1990 issue of "Wooden Canoe" entitled "Voyage of the Ant". It consisted of excerpts from his book of the same name.
About my discussion of the various species of trees whose roots have been used in birchbark canoe construction he says:
"As for root lashings any evergreen root that I've been able to dig up has proved suitable for canoe lashings. Being a 'hands-on' person, I tend to search the 'soil', not the literature.
Interested, and astute observers recorded what they could. But Native peoples used anything that was available where and when they needed it. My own birch is lashed entirely with white pine roots, which received secondary mention in the literature. They were available, and I had a convenient local source. Dig a root, tie a simple overhand knot, then pull it tight. If it doesn't break, it can serve as canoe lashings."
In other words, Jim is saying that ease of harvesting trumps species. That makes sense.
                           Birch bark, birch-bark or birchbark?
You may have noticed that when referring to canoes I use "birchbark" as if it were one word. "Spell Check" always disagrees and tries to get me to use "birch bark" or "birch-bark".It may seem ungrammatical or strange but when referring to canoes "birchbark" is  used by most authors of canoe books in my library.
Birchbark examples: John Jennings' "Bark Canoes, The Art of and Obsession of Tappen Adney" and "The Canoe, a Living Tradition". Bill Riviere's "The Open Canoe" and "Pole, Paddle and Portage". Bill Mason's "Path of the Paddle". Sue Audette's "The Old Town Canoe Company, Our First Hundred Years". Tim Kent's "Birchbark Canoes of the Fur Trade"
Birch-bark canoes, hyphenated, is used by Robert C. Wheeler in "A Toast to the Fur Trade", Jim Poling, Sr. in "The Canoe", and Adney & Chappelle in "The Bark and Skin Boats of North America".
I don't own it, but I understand that David Gidmark's book "Birch Bark Canoes" uses two unhyphenated words.
This is the last of the Hiawatha's Canoe series. I have one more series ready to send out before the Quiet Water Symposium on March 7. It will be about the "whitewood" dugout canoes built by Michigan's Indians and pioneers. Kit Lane will be interested in the one about dugouts the St. Joseph River. She is writing one of her Rivers of Michigan series on the St Joe now.

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