Rivers, Edens, Empires: Lewis & Clark and the Revealing of America
Transcript: Clark's Drawings of Indian Canoes
Transcription from: Gary E. Moulton, editor. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Volume 6. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
[Clark] Saturday February 1st 1806
This morning a party of four men Set out with Jo. Field; and Sergt. Gass with a party of five men again Set out up the Netul river in Serch of the Elk which had been killed Some days since, and which Could not be found in Consequence of the Snow.
The Canoes of the nativs inhabitting the lower part of the Columbia River from the Long narrows down make their canoes remarkably neat light and well addapted for rideing high waves. I have Seen the nativs near the Coast rideing waves in these Canoes in Safty and appearantly without Concern when I Should it impossible for any vessel of the Same Size to have lived or kept above water a minute. they are built of Arborvitia or white Cedar generally, but Sometimes of fir. they are cut out of a solid Stick of timber, the gunnals at the upper edge fold over outwards and are about 5/8 of an inch thick and 4 or 5 broad, and Stand out nearly Horizontially forming a kind of rim to the Canoe to prevent the water beating into it. they are all furnished with more or less Cross bars agreeably to thier sizes of the Canoe, those bars are round Sticks about 1 inch and ½ diameter which are atached to the iner Side of the canoes a little below the rim on either Side with throngs of Cedar bark which is incerted through holes and made fast to the ends of the Stick, which is made Smaller than the other part of the Stick to prevent the cord Slipping off these cross bears Serve to Strengthen the canoe, and by which they lift and manage her on land. when the nativs land the[y] invariably take their Canoes on Shore unless they are heavily ladined, and then even, if they remain all night, they discharge their loads and take the Canoe on shore.
Some of the large Canoes are upwards of 50 feet long and will Carry from 8 to 12 thousand 1bs. or from 20 to 30 persons, and Some of them particularly on the Sea Coast are waxed painted and ornimented with curious images on bow and Stern; those images sometimes rise to the hight of five feet; the pedestile on which these images are fixed, are Sometimes cut out of the Solid Stick with the Canoe, and the image is formed of Seperate pieces of timber firmly united with tenants and mortices without the appearance of a Single Spike or nail of any kind. when the nativs are engaged in navigateing their Canoes, one Sets in the Stern and Stears with a paddle the others Set by pars and paddle over their gunnals next them, they all kneel in the bottom of the Canoe and Set on their feet. their paddles are of an uniform shape which this is an imitation those paddles are made verry thin and the middle of the blade is thick and hollowed out Suddenly, and made thin on the Sides, the center forming a kind of ridge. the [handle] occupies about 1/3 of the length of the paddle which is usually 4 to 4-1/2 feet in length. I have observed five forms of Canoes only in use among the nativs below the Grand Cataract of this river. they are as follows. this is the Smallest Size about 15 feet long, and Calculated for one two men mearly to cross creeks, take over Short portages to navagate the ponds and Still water, and is mostly in use amongst the Clatsops and Chinnooks. this is the next Smallest and from 16 to 20 feet long and calculated for two or 3 persons and are most common among the Wau-ki-á-cums and Cath-lâh-mâhs among the marshey Islands, near their villages. A the bow; B the Stern; those are from 20 to 40 feet in length and from 2 ½ to 3 ½ feet in the beam and about 2 feet deep; this Canoe is common to all the nations below the grand Rapids it here made deeper and Shorter in pertotion than the Canoe realy is, the bow sprit from C. to D. is brought to a Sharp edge tapering gradually from the Sides. This is the most common form of the Canoes in use among the indians from the Chil-luck-kit-te quaw inclusive to the ocian and is commonly from about 30 to 35 feet long, and will carry from 10 to12 persons. 4 men are copetent to carry them a considerable distance Say a mile without resting. A is the end the nativs use as the bow, but which on first Sight I took to be the Stern c.d. is a comb cut of the solid wood with the Canoe, and projects from the Center of the end of the Canoe being about 1 inch thick, it's Sides parallel and edge at c, d, Sharp it is from 9 to 11 inches in debth and extends from the under part of the bow sprit at A to the bottom at, d,. the Stern B is nearly rounding and gradually assending. 1, 2, 3, represents the rim of the gunnals about 4 inches wide, reather ascending as they recede from the Canoe. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, are the holes through which the String pass to fasten the round pieces which pass Crosswise the Canoe to Strengthen & lift her. This form of a canoe we did not meet with untill we reached tide water or below the Great Rapids. from thence down it is common to all the nations but more particularly the Kil a mox and others of the Coast. these are the largest Canoes, I measured one at the Kilamox villag S S W of us which was [blank] feet long [blank] feet deep, and they are most Commonly about that Size. B is the bow, and Comb. C, the stern and Comb. Their images are representations of a great variety of grotesque figures, any of which might be Safely worshiped without commiting a breach of the Commandments.
They have but fiew axes among them, and the only tool usially employd in forming the Canoe, carveing &c is a chissel formed of an old file about an inch or 1 ½ inchs broad, this chissel has Sometimes a large block of wood for a handle; they Grasp the chissel just below the block with the right hand holding the top of the block, and Strikes backwards against the wood with the edge of the Chissel. a person would Suppose that forming a large Canoe with an enstriment like this was the work of Several years; but those people make them in a fiew weeks. They prize their Canoes very highly; we have been anxious to obtain Some of them, for our journy up the river but have not been able to obtain one as yet from the nativs in this neighbourhood.
To day we opened and examined all our Ammunition, which has been Secured in leaden Canistirs. we found twenty Sevin of the best Rifle powder, 4 of Common rifle, 3 of Glaize and one of Musquet powder in good order, perfectly as dry as when first put in the Canisters, altho the whole of it from various accidince have been for hours under the water. these Cannisters Contain 4 pounds of powder each and 8 of Lead. had it not been for that happy expedient which Capt Lewis devised of Securing the powder by means of the Lead, we Should have found great dificuelty in keeping dry powder untill this time--; those Cannisters which had been accidently brused and cracked, one which was carelessly Stoped, and a fifth which had been penetrated with a nail; were wet and damaged; those we gave to the men to Dry; however exclusive of those 5 we have an abundant Stock to last us back; and we always take Care to put a purpotion of it in each canoe, to the end that Should one Canoe or more be lost we Should Still not be entirely bereft of ammunition, which is now our only hope for Subsistance and defences in the rout of 4,000 miles through a Country exclusively inhabited by Indians--many bands of which are Savage in every Sense of the word--.