Canoe; Passenger/cargo vessel; Fishing vessel; Beothuk Birch Bark Canoe

Scale: approximately 1:11. A model of a Beothuk or 'Red Paint People' birch bark canoe (circa 1826), from Newfoundland, Canada. The hull comprises of a single sheet of birch bark which is sewn together both ends with root sinew to produce a v-shaped horizontal hull, which is unique to this type. The extreme shape of which is supported internally by a keelson and a series of flat wooden planks and steamed frames. It is double-ended with high and raking ends which drop down to a flat and broad body finishing with two raised points at the midship section. To stop damage to the bark along its upper edges and to provide support for the wooden gunwale capping, the bark skin has been re-enforced with spruce root sinew stitching.
Originally the canoe had three thwarts. The model appears to have been rubbed with red ochre but is finished in natural colours and varnished overall. These boats, approximately 6 metres in length, were used for inter-island travel along the coast.

The model was made by Nancy Shanawdithit who died in 1829 of tuberculosis. She was probably the last member of the Beothuks, the aboriginal inhabitants of Newfoundland. The last survivor of a small family group encountered in a starving condition, Nancy as she became known, lived out the remainder of her life among Europeans, and was able to leave some valuable records of her culture. The Beothuk, had lived by fishing in the summer and hunting caribou inland during the winter. The expanding European fishing communities of the coast cut them off from access to their marine resources and malnutrition made them susceptible to imported diseases and sometimes led to conflict with fishermen and trappers.

The model was collected by Captain W. M. Jones RN, who visited Exploits Burnt Island in 1826 and 1827. Shanawdithit was at that time living as a servant in the household of John Peyton, the local magistrate.

Object Details

ID: AAE0190
Collection: Ship models
Type: Full hull model; Sewn model
Display location: Display - Atlantic Gallery
Creator: Shanawdithit, Nancy
Date made: Early 19th century
Exhibition: The Atlantic: Slavery, Trade, Empire; Exploration and Cultural Encounters
People: Jones, W. M.
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
Measurements: Overall: 140 x 540 x 167 mm

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