Moose-skin Boat

Moose-skin Boat

Small portable moose-skin boat

Moose hide pulled taut over spruce frame. Seams sealed with spruce pitch and grease. Metal nails used on wooden frame.

Moose skin boats were very versatile canoes. They were very light but durable boats, and depending on their size they could usually carry one or two families. This boat made from two raw moose hides, was the traditional boat used for travel and transport of large game. The raw hides were sewn together and stretched over a spruce frame then latched on with sinew and babiche (semi-tanned rawhide strips). The seams of the hide were sealed with spruce pitch and moose or bear grease. These boats could be built in a day and were a convenient alternative to other types of canoes that were painstakingly constructed over days or weeks.

The downside to the moose skin canoe was the constant care required to keep them from deteriorating. Since the raw hide was porous it would become waterlogged after four to five hours. Travel would have to be halted so that the canoe could be taken out of the water to dry out. However, it was just as important to keep the raw hide slightly moist. Moose skin canoes were never allowed to dry out completely because the hides would tighten and harden causing the sides of the canoe to split. An older but well maintained canoe was sometimes taken apart and the hides were tanned. The battering the hides took as part of the boat softened them and made them more desirable for clothing.


George Johnston Museum, Teslin

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