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The "Canadian"

In the history of recreational boating in Canada, the canoe enjoys a place of special prominence. Indeed, it is arguable that the canoe, more than any other Canadian technology, has achieved the status of a national icon. And, what we think of simply as a "canoe" is in other countries known as a "Canadian."

Drawing by John David Kelly from private canoe-trip album, The Log of the Yam, 1898. (CSTMC)

The basic form of the canoe originated with the bark and dugout traditions of Indigenous Peoples. Inspired by the innate qualities of its form, new techniques were developed to build the canoe from wood, giving rise to commercial production and widespread recreational use. Early commentators saw the Canadian canoe as something distinct requiring definition. One such observer writing in Forest and Stream (December 29, 1887, p. 456), under the pen name Retaw, described the chief characteristics of the Canadian canoe as "sharp lines...broad flat floor...[and] slight tumble home of the topsides."