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Building a Birchbark Canoe

March 29, 2011

Anyone interested in the North American fur trade during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is certainly familiar with the important role played by the birchbark canoe. Its light weight and cargo capacity allowed fur traders to take advantage of a network of lakes, rivers, and streams that nearly crossed the continent.  Yet these vessels, so important to the colonial economies of New France and British America, were constructed from natural materials like spruce roots, cedar, pine resins, and of course tree bark so it is little wonder that they rarely survive in the archaeological record.

Fortunately the building tradition was not lost over time.  Books such as The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America by Edwin Tappan Adney and Howard Chappelle, documented the materials and building techniques used for several canoe varieties.  The following video shows Mr. Francois Rothan building a birchbark canoe in Quebec in 2007.  While a few modern tools are used the basic steps shown are very similar to those used centuries ago.

The MUA would like to thank Mr. Rothan for sharing this video with us.

You can learn more about Mr. Rothan and see other examples of his work at http://birchbarkcanoes.blogspot.com/

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