Giving Form to the Cultural Core of the Canoe Nations

"The canoe represents Native life at its fullest" -- Emmett Oliver, Quinalt

(Civilization.CA: Lootaas arrives at Skidegate)
Proposal for a Youth Tlingit-Haida Canoe Building Project (Draft)

Concept: Middle school students will build two simple plywood boats with the general lines of Tlingit canoes, incorporating traditional Tlingit canoe building ceremonies (where appropriate) and painted art forms.
Phil Bolger's "Navel Jelly" design, an easy-to-build 31 foot canoe, would provide the substrate for Northwest coast art forms. The boat itself can be easily and inexpensively assembled from precut parts by middle school students using nails and non-toxic glue.

Northwest Coast Art Forms
The flat sides provide an excellent canvas for 2D art forms.
(Source: Civilization.CA: Pacific Coast Dugouts -- "Northern" Style)    
Designs can be incorporated on interior surfaces as well.

Construction Methods
Nail and glue, plywood over cedar longitudinal members, with five structural bulkhead/molds.

Similar construction techniques on smaller boats have been successfully built by a grade 4-5-6 class in Juneau.

Other Elements
  • Tlingit ceremony and ritual:
    • Tree harvest ceremony
    • Chip/scrap burning ritual
    • Dedication/launch ceremony
  • Guest Lectures
    • Tlingit elders(canoe building, ceremonies)
    • Regional carvers (Nathan Jackson, Wayne Price?)
  • Canoe drumming traditions on upturned boat bottom (resonance)
  • Integration with art club/art classes
  • Two canoes: racing opportunity
  • Canoes remain on-site for display (hang from commons ceiling?)
  • Built on-site on tarps for floor protection (could use commons). (Haul to commons ceiling between classes?).
  • Paddle assembly/painting

Alternative Designs
Applegate Boatworks Makah Design (stitch and glue construction) 19 ft.(smaller than ideal)
Modified Navel Jelly (Bolger), to achieve upswept ends

Tlingit Canoe Links, a compendium of information about other Northwest Coast canoe projects.

Top of Document

Contact:  Fritz Funk (