In the boreal forest, rivers are often the only relief from dense trees or muskeg and here a niche was carved for dug-out canoes. Dug-outs were formed by chipping soaked or partially burned logs with stone axes. The final gouging was done with a clever tool borrowed from nature’s furry carpenters: beaver teeth. Early boat builders used chisels made of beaver incisors tied to wooden handles. With use, beaver tooth dentine is worn away, which exposes new sharp enamel ridges. The result is a self-sharpening chisel that was used by Cree and Dene across the boreal forest.
From the April/May, 2015 issue of Canada’s History Magazine.
Written by: Todd Kristensen (Archaeological Survey) and Mike Donnelly (Freelance Historian)
The area of the river valley and places along the river as seen in the picture is not far from where the first pre-contact northern Dene people travelled to and from to areas north up to the Yukon, some 3,000 km. We embrace that our paddle and on-the- river recreational activities are on Treaty 6 Lands as the First Nations people taught us all how to build and use the canoes and kayaks that were essential to travel, exploration and commerce. My own experience with the 25 ft Northern Voayageur Canoe was on a boat named Pathfinder that went across many rivers in Alberta, lakes and even oceans from Canadian cities across the prairies, the Canadian Shield and beyond borders. The canoe is an iconic symbol that we can all still enjoy as being able to share the river. Education programs and the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition which bring awareness to the importance of the meeting place as a recreational site for the next generation and how we can anticipate a river that runs through our city, as our Mayor has coined this is a “River city rising”. The paddling community and Edmonton Paddling Centres Association EPCA those we include are the Ceyana Canoe Club, NorthWest Voyageurs Canoe and Kayak Club, Edmonton Whitewater Paddlers and others Riverwatch, Haskin Canoe, Canoeheads, EasyRider, Greater Edmonton Racing canoe and kayak club, Leduc Boat club, UAPS, EDBFA Edmonton Dragon Boat Festival Association, Friends of the river recreational association, EDBRC Edmonton Dragon Boat Racing club, City of Edmonton River Valley programs which provide us with a cultural experience and a safe enjoyable experience in and along our North Saskatchewan river.