Wave Eaters

Native Watercraft in Canada

Watercraft have long played a vital role in the cultures of most First Peoples in Canada. Indian and Inuit boat builders have produced many varieties of wooden dugout, bark canoe and skin boat, each designed for specific purposes and particular conditions. This selection of Native watercraft from the Canadian Museum of Civilization's collections highlights the creativity and skill of Indian and Inuit boat builders.

Of all archaic watercraft, the canoe and the kayak share the distinction of having survived in modern form all over the world. Many Indian and Inuit inventions were adopted by European immigrants to North America. Dugout canoes were used by the early traders in western North America and birchbark canoes of Algonquian origin were used by white men in the north. Indeed, the early birchbark canoes were the prototypes for boats made today of canvas or fibreglass. Canvas and fibreglass models of the Inuit kayak are also being made both for functional use and for sport.

"Even long ago there were some men who could not make all the things that were needed. In each camp there were only a few who could make everything. The hardest thing to build was the canoe. The man who could make a canoe was very happy because the people depended on it so much."
John Kawapit
Eastern Cree
Great Whale River, Quebec

Bark Canoes

Dugout Canoes

kayaks |  umiaks |  bark canoes |  dugout canoes
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