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  • The Tlingit Canoe Grade Level 7-12

    Goldbelt Heritage Foundation “Drink from the Vessel of Traditional Knowledge.”

    & the story of Kaax'achgóok Photo Credit: JoAnn Jackson, Kake Alaska 2014

  • This unit was brought to you by the Demonstration Grant, Award # S299A90070.The Demonstration grant supports the Tlingit culture and language being taught to Southeast Alaska’s Youth. This project develops and disseminates culturally responsive

    science and math curriculum to Alaska schools.

  • The Tlingit Canoe 7 - 12 History/Literature/Writing/Math

    Author: Paul Berg Editor: Tiffany La Rue

    Company: Goldbelt Heritage Foundation


  • Credits Vocabulary Tlingit Canoe Facts Display Hull Speed Hull Designs

    Lesson One (Oral Narrative Worksheet) Activity 1 - - - - -

    Lesson Two (Boat/Canoe Dimensions) Activity 1 - - - - - Activity 2 - - - - - Activity 3 - - - - -

    Lesson Three (Hull Speed & Paper Canoe) Activity 1 - - - - - Activity 2 - - - - - Activity 3 - - - - - Lesson 3 Review- - - - -

    Lesson Four (Canoe Analysis & Short Story Planning) Activity 1 - - - - - Activity 2 - - - - - Activity 3 - - - - -

    Unit Test (The Tlingit Canoe)





    7 9 11


    15 13 17 20


    22 25 30


    Table of Contents





    7 9 11


    15 13 17 20


    22 25 30


    Beam the most extreme width of a vessel Boat Capacity the maximum carrying capacity of a vessel expressed in

    the number of passengers or in units of weight Bow the most forward part of a boat Bow Wave the wave that forms at the bow of a vessel as it moves

    through the water Buoyancy the upward force that water exerts on a vessel’s hull Capacity Plate a metal plate usually found near the helm station which

    designates the maximum weight of people, fuel and gear that can be safely loaded aboard the vessel

    Chine a sharp handle in the hull Displacement the weight of water a vessel displaces as it floats Displacement Hull a hull designed to move through the water displacing an

    amount of water equal to the weight of the vessel Following Sea the wave direction matches the direction of the boat, the

    waves are coming from the stern Freeboard the distance from the waterline to the upper surface of

    the hull amid ship Gunwale the top edge of the side of a boat Hero’s Journey the narrative account of a person going forth on an

    arduous journey, faces and overcomes perilous challeng- es, undergoes transformational change, and returns to bestow benefits on his community

    Hull Speed the speed at which the wave length of the boat’s bow wave is equal to the length of the boat

    Knot a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile: 1.121 miles per hour

    Oral Narrative refers not only to the story but the telling of the story in contrast to written literature

    Port the left side of a vessel Proportion two ratio that are equal to each other Prow forward part of a vessel’s bow which cuts through the

    water Ratio a relationship between two numbers, such as 3:5 Sea Anchor a device used to stabilize a vessel in rough weather by

    increasing drag through the water Starboard the right side of a vessel Stern the rear or aft most part of a vessel Stern Wave a wave approaching from or breaking over the stern or

    aft part of a vessel Tender a smaller boat usually used to transport people or sup-

    plies from a larger vessel to shore Thwart a structural crosspiece sometimes forming a seat for a




  • Head Canoe: A large ocean-going canoe that was up to 70 feet long with a large prow and stern, used for long voyages and warfare. As trade flourished along the Northwest coast, this type of canoe became less prominent.

    Northern Canoe: Designed for long journeys over open-ocean. It had flaring sides and a rounded bottom, designed for buoyancy and speed; the beam was from 5 to 9 feet and ranged from 40 to 60 feet in length. The Northern canoe had the ability to cut through small waves and ride over large swells. The large Northern canoe allowed for long voyages and the trans- port of goods and supplies. It also supported trade along the Northwest coast.

    Small Canoes: From 10 to 20 feet in length, they were used for local transport and fishing. They were usually paddled in the kneeling position and used in protected bays and estuaries.

    Seamanship Notes: Among the Tlingit, both men and women would row a canoe. The posi- tion of steersman was a place of honor and it was reserved for an older person of rank, fre- quently a woman. On long journeys, even children were allowed to paddle. The rowers sang paddle songs to maintain rhythm and keep up their spirits on long voyages. On approaching a village, rowers would strike the butt-end of their paddles against the side of the canoe to keep time with the rowing song and announce their arrival.

    The Canoe as a Symbol for Community: The Tlingit canoe, with the exception of the small- est vessels, was used for community endeavors. Everyone had to work together to make a canoe. The canoe became a visual symbol of the community.

    Tlingit Canoe Facts


  • Facts cont. Canoe Culture: Archaeological evidence suggests that a vibrant canoe using culture existed along the Northwest coast of North America for at least the last 10,000 years. By the early 18th century, there were over 10,000 canoes of various types along the coast. By the early 20th century, the canoe culture had virtually disappeared.

    Canoe Construction: The Tlingit canoe was a dug out—that is a large log was cut out to the basic shape desired for the canoe. Western Red Cedar was the preferred material for large canoes. The wood is strong with a straight grain, few knots, and light in weight. A cubic foot of dried red cedar weighs 22 pounds. A board foot of red cedar weighs 2 pounds. (A board foot of wood is 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch.) A master canoe maker and his assistants would spend several months making a large canoe. A log of appropriate length would be split in two. The inside of the canoe would be shaped with stone adzes and by burning out the ex- cess wood. The sides of the canoe would be carved out to a standard thickness to lighten the vessel. Water would be placed in the canoe and hot rocks added to create steam. The canoe builders then covered the steaming canoe with woven mats.

    As the cedar became more pliable from the steam, the builders would stretch out the sides, increasing the beam of the canoe. Frequently, on large canoes, prow and stern sections would be added from a separate piece of wood. The builders then painted the finished vessel as a visual symbol of the community.

    Tlingit Canoe Dimensions: Hulls were generally slightly over twice as wide as they were deep. A modern cabin cruiser, skiff, or small boat may have a width to length to width ratio as low as 3 to 1 or 4 to 1, giving the boat a broad, stubby appearance. Tlingit canoes, being made from a single large log, were very slender in comparison. The Tlingit canoe length to width ratio usually fell between 6 to 1 to as high as 8 to 1. The most typical ratio was a length that was close to 7 times the width, a length to beam (width) ratio of 7 to 1.


  • Display Hull Speed Three Types of Hulls Boats come in one of three basic hull types: the displacement, semi-displacement, and the planing, dis- placement, and semi-displacement.

    A planing hull rides on top of the water. A fast planing hull, as on a hydroplane actually skims along the sur- face of the water. Planing hulls are usually found on smaller, high powered craft. Planing hulls usually have a shallow V or flattened bottom. Many small skiffs and pleasure boats have planing hulls. Planing hulls are fast, but they require large amounts of power and may be fuel inefficient.

    A displacement hull actually goes through the water rather than skimming the surface. The water is dis- placed by the hull as the vessel goes through the water. Displacement hulls require less power to move through the water and are slower.

    A semi-displacement hull occupies the area between the other two hull designs. A semi-displacement hull will, as high speed, partially lift out of the water. But part of the hull is still displacing a significant amount of water. Many cabin cruisers and pleasure boats near Juneau are semi-displacement hulls.

    The hulls of the Tlingit canoes were displacement hulls. The displacement hull on a small craft such as a ca- noe is typically very efficient at slow speeds. As these craft were rowed by hand, this made for an energy-effi- cient means of transportation. As the speed of a small craft increases, the water resistance increases substan- tially, and the displacement hull becomes less efficient. The maximum efficient speed of a displacement hull is related to the length of the hull and can be calculated mathematically.

    Theoretical Speed of a Displacement Hull The theoretical speed of a displacement hull can be determined mathematically. The formula for determin- ing maximum hull speed is:

    HS = 1.34 x the square root of LWL

    HS is hull speed in knots (nautical mile equal to 6,000 feet) LWL is length of the boat or canoe at the waterline

    Example 1: A Tlingit canoe is 22 feet in total length, and 18 feet long at the


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