History is Philosophy teaching by examples. — Thucydides

America First - Lawton Evans

Building a Canoe

The birch bark canoe was the most beautiful and ingenious of all the Indians' inventions. It was so broad that it could float in shallow streams, so strong that it could shoot dangerous rapids, and so light that one man could easily carry it on his back.

To make such a boat the Indians picked out a tall tree, with thick bark and with as few branches as possible. This they would cut down, care being taken to prevent it falling against other trees, thereby hurting the bark. The bark was then split along the length of the tree, and carefully peeled off in pieces the length and breadth of the canoe. They were very particular not to have any holes in the bark, which, during the season when the sap was in the tree, was firm and fine.

The bark was then spread on the ground in a smooth place, the inside downwards, and, in order to stretch it better, logs of wood or stones were placed on it. Then the edges of the bark were gently bent upwards to form the sides of the boat. Some sticks were fixed into the ground at a distance of three or four feet from each other, forming the curved line which the sides of the boat were intended to make. The bark was bent to the form which the boat was to have, being held firmly in position by the sticks thus driven into the ground.

Indian birch bark canoe

The ribs of the boat were made of tough hickory, cut into long, flat pieces, and bent to the shape of the boat, the wider ones in the middle, and the narrower ones towards the ends. When thus bent and tied in position, the ribs were placed upon the bark about ten inches apart.

The upper edge of each side of the boat was made of two thin poles, the boat's length, and put close together with flat edges to hold the bark between. These long poles, firmly attached to the ribs, determined the shape of the boat. The edge of the bark was now inserted between the poles on each side, and was sewed to the poles by means of mouse-wood, bark, or roots.

The poles were now sewed together at the end, and the bark was made water tight where it was joined by pounded bark of the red elm. Bands were placed across the top of the ribs of the boat to prevent spreading or crushing in, and boards were laid across the bottom to step on. The boat was then ready for use.

This was a frail structure, and had to be treated very tenderly. The sides were easily torn open by rocks and hidden branches of trees, and, therefore, the Indian was always on the lookout for danger. The bottom could be easily crushed through; hence the Indian went barefoot, and entered the canoe very gingerly.

But with such a canoe three or four persons could easily float, and in some of the war canoes even a dozen Indians could find space. With long paddles and strong arms, the Indians forced their craft over the lakes and along the rivers with great ease and speed. It was strong enough to hold a heavy load, so long as it did not strike a rock or hidden tree. Such a boat could shoot down a dangerous rapid, if it was directed by skillful hands. When the Indians wished to move from one lake to another, they lifted the canoe out the water, strapped it across the back of one man, who took it over the trail across country from one body of water to another.


Front Matter

Leif, the Lucky
Spaniards Conquer Mexico
Conquest of Peru
The Fountain of Youth
De Soto and the Mississippi
Sir Walter Raleigh
The Lost Colony
Adventures of John Smith
More about John Smith
Pilgrims and Puritans
Miles Standish
Building a Canoe
Roger Williams
Old Silver Leg
William Penn
The Charter Oak
Bloody Marsh
Saving of Hadley
Sir William Phips
Hannah Dustin
Israel Putnam
A Young Surveyor
Young Washington
Indians and Major Putnam
How Detroit was Saved
Blackbeard the Pirate
Daniel Boone
Sunday in the Colonies
The Salem Witches
Traveling by Stage-coach
King George and the Colonies
Patrick Henry
Paul Revere
Green Mountain Boys
Father of his Country
Nathan Hale
Elizabeth Zane
Capturing the Hessians
Lafayette Comes to America
Lydia Darrah
Captain Molly Pitcher
The Swamp Fox
Outwitting a Tory
Supporting the Colors
Nancy Hart
Mad Anthony
Execution of Major Andre
How Schuyler was Saved
An Indian Trick
Winning the Northwest
Benjamin Franklin
Nolichucky Jack
Eli Whitney
Thomas Jefferson
Burning of the Philadelphia
Lewis and Clark
Colter's Race for Life
Pike Explores Arkansas Valley
How Pumpkins Saved a Family
Old Ironsides
Star Spangled Banner
Traveling by Canal
Lafayette Returns
Osceola, Seminole Chief
Journey by Railroad
Old Hickory
Daniel Webster
Henry Clay
Plantation Christmas
John C. Calhoun
Heroes of the Alamo
Freedom for Texas
Electric Telegraph
Gold in California
Crossing Continent
The Pony Express
Boy Who Saved Village
Rescue of Jerry
Abraham Lincoln
Robert E. Lee
Stonewall Jackson
Stealing a Locomotive
Sam Davis
Escape from Prison
Running the Blockade
Heart of the South
Surrender of Lee
Laying the Atlantic Cable
The Telephone
Thomas A. Edison
Clara Barton
Hobson and the Merrimac
Dewey at Manila Bay
Conquering Yellow Fever
Sinking of Lusitania
Private Treptow
Frank Luke, Aviator
Sergeant York