Makah Cultural and Research Center Online Museum

Canoes

Canoes with floatsCanoemakers turned out all sizes of craft from children's practice canoes to whaling canoes more than 30 feet long and war canoes even bigger. They hollowed redcedar logs, then steamed them pouring in water and adding fire-heated rocks. Softened this way, the sides could be flared yet keep the strength of straight grain. If the flare were carved instead, the sides would be cross-grained and week.

Canoe sides found at Ozette have hardwood gunwales laced on to protect the hull from the constant wear of paddling. Such strips were easy to replace. Sails have not been found in the archaeological deposits. Nobody knows how far back they date.

Makahs knew how to read the weather and what its specifics meant at each location. Safety at sea depended on this. They watched the color of the sky and direction of the wind, listened to the sound of water, and noticed how vapors were rising from the earth and lying against the hills. They knew the positions of the stars and the moon according to season. Men sat on the beach in the evening watching these signs, and nobody bothered them, for lives depended on this knowledge.

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All content for this exhibit is © Makah Cultural and Research Center.

The Community Museum is a project of community organizations and Tribes across the Olympic Peninsula, and the University of Washington.
Support for the project comes from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Preston, Gates and Ellis, LLP.