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Aboriginal Youth Identity Series: Health and Wellness TidbitsGlossary Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness
Health and Wellness

Tid Bits to Know

  • On the Prairies the principle mode of transportation other than walking was the birch bark canoe.
  • Canoes on the Pacific Coast were usually constructed of cedar or redwood. They were hollowed or dug out, could hold up to sixty people, depending on the size of the tree used.
  • Before the Europeans introduced beads, ribbon and buttons, many Aboriginal women used porcupine quills to decorate clothing.
  • Saskatoon berries and chokecherries were some of the favorite berries of the Cree.
  • There are six major cultural regions of First Nations in Canada (from east to west): Woodland, Iroquois of south eastern Ontario, Plains, Plateau, Pacific Coast, and First Nations of the Mackenzie and Yukon River basins. http://www.edukits.ca/aboriginal/origin/grade3/tidbits/index2.htm
  • In order for a Blackfoot woman to catch a porcupine to harvest its quills, she had to corner it and cover it with a blanket. This would scare the porcupine, who would then drop his quills out of fear into the blanket.
  • The Montreal Canoe was the largest birchbark vessel created in Canada.
  • Paper birch bark was used across Canada to construct canoes.
  • Aboriginal groups across Canada were successful in developing and adapting canoes to meet the needs of either shallow or coastal waters.
  • White Cedar and Spruce were other popular trees that were utilized for canoe construction.
  • The dugout canoe used in coastal regions was well suited for large expanses of water and its construction made efficient use of the local resources. In contrast, the birch bark canoe made from resources available inland is just as well suited for travel on small waterways and for transfer between these small waterways.
  • As an application of this principle canoes meant to carry large loads or navigate rough waters were larger for reasons of carrying capacity and stability.
  • Canoe design blends scientific principles of buoyancy and drag. Archimedes' principle states that the buoyant force on an object is equal to the weight of the fluid which it displaces. This means that a large volume boat will displace more water and has a greater buoyant force exerted on it allowing it to carry more weight. As an application of this principle canoes meant to carry large loads or navigate rough waters were larger for reasons of carrying capacity and stability. This knowledge was blended with a need to minimize drag. The canoe's drag is minimized by shaping it so that it flows through the water while disturbing it to the least degree possible. Aboriginal designs accomplished this through sharp bow and stem lines and narrow width canoes. The latter also affects stability, AR canoes compromise the stability and carrying capacity of large wide boats and the speed and efficiency of long narrow canoes. Aboriginal designs from across North America reflected their needs.
  • The materials of canoe construction also demonstrate a great deal of scientific knowledge: birch bark sheets for the hull, white cedar for planing and ribs, spruce and tamarack roots for binding seams, and spruce gum for sealing. These materials were chosen on the basis of weight, strength, and availability. Construction techniques took advantage of the materials' natural properties: wood was shaped when green and wet and sap was reduced to take advantage of its adhesive and sealant properties.
  • Today's canoes have changed but they remain an important method of travel for many Aboriginal People. The use of engines and modem materials has changed the canoe in the James Bay region but their design remains Aboriginal as are the people who continue to construct them.
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