The Canoe Maker

On the Pilchuck lived and worked part of `he year the Canoe-maker. He did not make canoes alone. Handling the big logs took more than one man. But he had a good eye for the best trees and for the shaping of the canoes. When a good tree had been selected, the fillers commenced their work. Their tools were chisel and hammer. Their best chisel was a tool about 8 or 10 inches long and one-half to two inches wide, made of bone or elkhorn, and called queahad. Striking the end of the handle with the hammer (skaat-scheed with long handle, or tab-tab, a similar tool without handle) the wood was chewed away all around a tree until it fell down, then chided off at the proper length and split.

The same tools were used to split off and form the outside. For the ends and inside was used another tool, a short slightly curved chisel, tied loosely to a handle. Holding this in one hand and hitting the bead of the chide with the other, the chips would fly and the canoe take form. Sometimes when the outside of the canoe was partly formed it would be put in the water and little fires started all over the top, these would eat out holes and save a lot of chopping. Generally the canoe was very narrow and high in the middle. This was changed by spreading the sides, first in the middle, and then towards the ends. For a smooth finish the canoe was scraped and rubbed inside and out with gritty rocks. Sometimes the finishing touches was a thorough greasing or painting all over. It was, perhaps, also its owner’s coffin and therefore was always made well–something to take pride in.


Bruseth, Nels. Indian Stories and Legends of the Stillaguamish and Allied Tribes. 1926.

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