Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge


Canoe (model)

tr’eyh “birchbark canoe”
Language: Deg Xinag

She used human anatomy to describe it – they cut down the belly of the birch tree and then peeled it off real slow. When they got enough for the canoe, they rolled it up and kept it in a cool place. Then they spent a day walking around in the woods, picking spruce sap. And they took spruce roots and got them ready.

—Eliza Jones, 2004

Athabascan families used birchbark canoes from spring break-up until the rivers and lakes froze in the fall, for hunting, fishing, and moving from camp to camp. The canoes were paddled, poled, and sometimes sailed. Dog teams pulled them upriver, the dogs trotting on the bank or swimming ahead of the boat. This model shows a fore-decked Yukon River canoe equipped with a bone-pronged fishing spear and a long-handled net hook. Canoe makers stitched the bark hull together with split spruce roots then built the birch or willow wood frame inside. They sealed the seams with hot spruce sap.

Culture: Athabascan
Region: Yukon River (lower) Alaska
Object Category: Boats
Dimensions: Length 106cm
Accession Date: 1892
Source: J. H. Turner (collector)
Museum: National Museum of Natural History
Museum ID Number: E153659