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Building a Birchbark Canoe

It takes time to build a good canoe. A skilled worker in urgent need of a canoe could construct a serviceable one in five days. More typically it took twice that amount of time to build one. Only three tools are needed to make a canoe: an axe, an awl and a crooked knife. Today, one might also use chainsaws, wood planes, clamps and other tools to speed up the process. Many elders make their own crooked knives and awls, as these tools are sometimes difficult to find. Several families would often work together to make several canoes at the same time.

Download the article "The Dogrib Birchbark Canoe Project." by Thomas Andrews and John B. Zoe, in Adobe PDF format (permission to reproduce this article was provided by the Arctic Institute of North America)

A Dogrib birchbark canoe (John Poirier/PWNHC)
Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada