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Larch (Tamarack)

The tree known as larch or tamarack in English was called nidhe or nithe by the Chipewyan, wakinakum or wakinakun by the Cree, and nduthe by the Slave. The larch tree is a fast growing coniferous tree common to the wetlands of the boreal forest. It is a small tree, growing to between six and fifiteen metres in height, occasionally reaching twenty metres. Its bark is thin and scaly, and like all conifers, the larch tree possesses needle shaped leaves. These needles grow on the larch to be about one to two centimetres in length. Oddly enough, the larch drops its needles in the autumn, making for an arresting sight as the needles turn bright yellow before falling. It is the only conifer in the northwest boreal forest that does this.

Traditional Uses

toboggan model

For northern Aboriginal Peoples, the larch was a ready source of hardwood, northern English slang dubbing it the “Indian hardwood” tree. The durable wood that was harvested from larch was often used in the construction of toboggan runners, snowshoes, drum frames, and canoe paddles. Decomposing wood from the larch was burned for the smoking of fish meat and curing of animal hides.

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