The Great Canoe

  • Exhibition Text

    • This extraordinary dugout canoe—the longest of its type still surviving—was made around 1878 by Native people from the Northwest Coast.

      Societies of the Northwest Coast were shaped by 
the sea. Both people and goods traveled primarily in canoes, which varied in size from small vessels used for fishing, hunting and other activities to those large enough for raiding parties.

      The Museum’s enormous canoe displays the 
work of craftsmen from more than one of the First Nations of British Columbia. Northwest Coast nations often traded canoes or included them in marriage dowries, and new owners added their own decoration.

      Oral traditions from both the Haida and the Heiltsuk nations indicate strong associations with this canoe.
      Some experts think the canoe is primarily of Heiltsuk manufacture and that the principal carver may have been Captain Carpenter (1841–1931), a prominent Heiltsuk canoe-maker of the period.

      The canoe’s body style follows a “Northern” form, associated especially with the Haida, and the painting on the canoe appears to be the work of Charles Edenshaw (1839–1920), an influential Haida artist famed for his painting, sculpture and metalwork.

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