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October 27, 2017 10:11 pm

Dugout Canoe Project Underway at Exploration Place

Thursday, June 30, 2016 @ 1:04 PM

From left, volunteer Dean Marsters, carver Robert Frederick and artist Jennifer Pighin

Prince George, B.C. – A unique piece of artwork is currently under construction outside Exploration Place.

The Museum has commissioned carver Robert Frederick to complete the Dugout Canoe Project.20160630_103555

The work coincides with the Museum’s ‘Path of the Paddle Exhibit’ which is set for a soft opening on Canada Day tomorrow.

Once complete, the canoe – which will be carved out of a 10,000-pound Cottonwood log –  will be accessioned into the Museum’s permanent collection.

“In the spring we’re going to be working on a brand new permanent First Nations gallery and the new dugout canoe is going to be the centerpiece of that hanging from the new roof so we’re really excited about that,” says curator Alyssa Tobin.

She says the project was made possible by Fortwood Homes.

“They donated the log, their time, the felling and they transported it here for us all free of charge. We couldn’t have done the project without them.”

Frederick estimates the project will take a week or two to complete. Tobin says he will be receiving assistance on the project from local First Nations artist Jennifer Pighin.


I think it is about time the museum also had a dugout canoe carved by Robert Frederick.

He carved one for the Huble homestead in 2005. I watched him and took photos on many an occasion during the progress of the work.


    Maybe I didn’t rad the article correcly … but this sentence would suggest that,

    “The Museum has commissioned carver Robert Frederick to complete the Dugout Canoe Project.”

      * rad = read

      Yes, what are you trying to say?

      Are you suggesting that the same Robert Frederick did not carve a dugout canoe at the Huble Homestead in 2005?

      He was commissioned by the curator of the Huble Homestead at the time to do that and received payment for his work.

      I would assume that he is receiving payment for this one as well.

      I guess the purpose of my post was to let those people who have never been to the Huble Homestead know that this is not the first canoe Robert Frederick carved for a “museum”, or heritage site if you will, which received partial funding from the RDFFG and those who are patrons of the two sites.

Some additional info on Robert Frederick



I do question the decorative carving on the dugout canoe shown in the pg free press article.

Such carvings are associated with the northwest coastal natives, not the interior aboriginals living on the plateau between the coastal and rocky mountains. It is my understanding that is a modern addition.

Perhaps because UNBC has a territory which includes the coast, they feel that they can make use of that traditional decoration method on the smaller and simpler dug out canoes of the interior.

Seems like a week of two is a very short time to carve a traditional dug out canoe.

gopg2015. How long did it take to carve the one at Huble??

    See the power saw.

      See the log cut down from a live tree perhaps by hand falling, bucked to length and transported by motorized vehicles to the museum. :-)

      Oh, I forgot. See the people who are living in today’s society with today’s experience and mindset who bring their knowledge and skills from the modern day to creating something they think might go back to some unknown “old” ways, but unsure of how far back those “old” ways actually go back.

      We do not have a time machine available to us. We all live today and do the best we can to fashion a construct of what we think were the “old” ways.

      In the final analysis, the finished product needs to be properly displayed at the museum with the best possible interpretive info to include the history which has been established to this day of how such watercraft were made and the source of the research which has determine this to be relatively accurate. That information should then be appended with detailed visual (video as well as still images) information to show how the canoe on display was made as an artifact to mirror, as best as possible, the “traditional” dugout canoe from the interior plateau of this region.

    I do not have the exact timeline for that. A best guess is about 2 months. Frederick did most of the work himself. Also, it was used as a demonstration for people visiting the homestead. The highest numbers of visitors were, of course, on the weekends so it was partially geared to them.

    Chainsaws are used today to cut down the tree and cut the log used to size. I agree that the first impression is to say they are cheating.

    The main thing in most if not all historical restorations is to make sure that the marks left on the materials such as wood in this case are those which were left on the originals of the time period which is trying to be represented. So, there should not be any chainsaw marks or any other modern tool left on the final product.

    The same with decorations. Only those decorations which might have been on some dugouts which had special purposes other than a simple tool for travel on the water should be on this canoe in my opinion and that of other purists.

    There is a picture in the BC Museum, for instance, of Six Mile Mary in a dugout she used which gives one an ideal of the shape of a dugout from this area, including any decoration – or lack of in this case.



I would like to see these modern native carvers use the tools of their forefathers to carve. Like using a stone axe and beaver tooth adze along with fire and give up their modern tools made from high quality alloy steel and omg a chainsaw too.

Using a chain saw takes away the message/idea .. I have seen a real dugout made when I still lived in Ontario..made using traditional tools etc.. This is an embarrasement to the old ways.

    Prior to European contact, Robert would probably have worn only a loincloth and moccasins at this time of year, Jennifer a hide dress and moccasins. Neither would have been able to speak English.

      I am not sure why you mention English.

      Language is one of the tools of humans to allow them to communicate with each other. The things they communicate about other than their social communications with friends as well as foes, they deal with their environment, their food, their travel, their trade, their making of things, etc.

      The language(s) they spoke, as with any language, reflected their lives then. English would have been totally superfluous the same as Latin is today.

      As far as loincloths go, you seem to have a Hollywood preconception. Do you get your information from the writings of explorers who wrote about the natives they encountered? If so, please cite the source of such written observations by those with first contact experience.

I agree. That would be nice.

So how does one determine whether the dugout canoe would be “real”? Which time period would make it “real”? Do not forget that depending on how far back you go, you would be looking at using timber which had fallen to the ground. Then cut it to length. Then transporting it, likely after it was lightened by removing some of the excess material in the location it was found, to the nearest water and floating it to the village for the final finishing.

We also must not forget that one would first have to make the tools, also using the old ways.

Figure out how many more hours all of that would take, then add that to the cost of the commission to build the boats. Five times as much? 10 times? Of course, we could always remember that this is contact and give them steel tools in return for making the canoe, so that they could build the next much more quickly. ;-)

This is public money. Who is willing to pay that much which their taxes?

So, how far back do we go?

About the time of contact, the trading of 18th century tools from the coastal contact and trading through to the Interior Plateau?

Or perhaps pre contact and basically stone age tools? We would then have to make sure that we actually get it right. Since we are dealing with sparse settlements in the Interior and artifacts which are made of wood which does not have a long lifetime before it is abandoned and decayed, we do not have good archaeological information of how this was done.

We have a much easier time to determine how European or Asian cultures manufactured a chest of drawers to store their household goods in over a span of a thousand plus years.

    Prior to the availability of metal axes and saws, another way of felling trees was using fire.

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