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

Lesson Three: Traditional Watercraft

Teacher Information:

Aboriginal People built a wide range of watercraft for specific environments and to collect different types of food. The canoe was an essential element of Aboriginal hunting encampments across Canada, both for travel and gathering game. In the following lessons, students will research and create one model of the various canoes that were in existence in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

Main Lesson:

Ask students to think back to the early days of Canadian exploration. What was one of the major ways in which Aboriginal People and explorers moved about the country? The aim is to get students to identify water as a source of transportation. Ask students in small groups to compile a list of all the different types of boats used (this can be both a contemporary or traditional list) as well as reasons why people used boats.

On the board write the following questions and have students answer the questions verbally.

  • Why do we have so many different types of boats?
  • Did different Aboriginal groups use different types of boats?
  • What are boats made from?
  • What natural materials would traditional Aboriginal People have used to make boats?

Break students into ten groups with two-to-three members each as correlates with your classroom demographics.

Download, print, and laminate the following ten historical photographs of different variations of Aboriginal canoes. Each group will receive one of the historical photographs and will conduct a research project on the type of canoe illustrated in their photograph. It is up to your discretion to determine what format of reporting you would like students to do. However, students will need to study/interpret the information provided with the photo to make an educated guess as to which Aboriginal group may have utilized that particular canoe. In their research project, students will endeavor to answer the following questions:

  • Which Aboriginal group utilized that type of canoe?
  • Geographically, where is this particular Aboriginal group located?
  • Briefly describe the history of the Aboriginal group (cultural background, spoken language, traditional practices etc.)
  • What was the canoe constructed from?
  • During which season of the year were most canoes constructed?
  • Who’s responsibility was it to make the canoe?
  • What was the main purpose of the canoe?
  • Under what conditions was the canoe best suited for?
  • Is this particular type of canoe still used today?
  • Students must also include other historical photographs of their type of canoe as well as a hand-drawn sketch

After each group has completed their research randomly pair two groups together. These larger groups will now compare their canoe to each other. Collectively all of the research findings from the class as a whole will be complied to create a database on Aboriginal traditional watercraft.

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