A Pioneer History of Becker County

Chapter XIV.

Birch Bark Canoes and Canoe Travel.

The most common method of travel by the Indians originally, in what is now Becker County, was by water, by means of birch bark canoes. There were formerly plain, well beaten canoe or portage trails between all the principal lakes of the country. The Otter Tail, Pelican, Buffalo and Shell Rivers were navigable for canoes, in many places of considerable length, and these added to the many lakes in the county, made travel by water much easier and more feasible than by land. It is true that portages had to be made quite frequently, but their loads of freight were light and as one person could easily carry a canoe over his head from one lake to another, the time and labor required to make one of these portages was but little more than a sort of recreation, or rest from the monotony of paddling the canoe.

How Canoes Are Made.

The following is from Neil's History of Minnesota:

"In the summer of 1826, General Lewis Cass, after concluding a treaty with the Indians at the head of Lake Superior, determined to return in a birch bark canoe.

Immediately a large force of women and children were set to work and built him a canoe thirty-six feet in length by five feet in width.

Stakes were driven into the ground the desired length of the canoe, and then rolls of birch bark, stripped from the tree unbroken and stitched together with the fine roots of the tamarack, were placed within the enclosure and secured to the stakes. Cross pieces of cedar were then inserted, producing the desired form, and constituting the ribs or framework.

After the birch bark was properly sewed to the frame, the stakes were pulled from the ground, the seams covered with pine pitch that the water could not enter"

After awhile ponies came into use, and still later the Red River cart was introduced, the first of which I have any knowledge being made by Alexander Henry in the fall of 1802, and in which goods were brought from Red River to Red Lake.

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