Canoe and Paddle | “canoes have a lifespan”

Edward Belcher’s engraving of a Chinook burial canoe, 1839. Courtesy of University of Washington Libraries. Manuscripts, Special Collections, University Archives Division. NA3888

Indigenous cemeteries contained things that were significant to the people who had passed away and canoes were often among a person’s most important belongings. Burial canoes also held the bodies of departed Chinook people. Carver Tony Johnson described it the following way:

People wore canoes out. Canoes have a lifespan. So our old cemeteries were full not only of dead people. They’re also full of dead canoes. We buried our people with things that were important to them. And our old cemeteries were full of canoes placed up on supports or in trees or however else we could elevate them above the ground. And inside of those canoes were individuals or multiple individuals from families. So, you know, they actually had a life after death also.” (quoted from The Wisdom of the Elders website.)

Video: “The Cathlamet Canoe,” a public talk by Dr. Kenneth Ames of Portland State University. The talk, sponsored by the Center for Columbia River History, with funding from Oregon Humanities, took place at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. Dr. Ames talks with the public about the shovelnose woman’s canoe at the maritime museum, which is named the “Cathlamet Canoe.” Tony Johnson of the Chinook Indian Nation joins him and discusses canoes and carving.

Part I: “The Cathlamet Canoe,” a discussion with Dr. Kenneth Ames
Part II: “The Cathlamet Canoe,” a discussion with Dr. Kenneth Ames and Tony Johnson
Part III: “The Cathlamet Canoe,” a discussion with Dr. Kenneth Ames and Tony Johnson