canoe - ush

The canoe in the collection of the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador is known as katshishtashkuatet (ka-cheesh-taash-kwa-tet), from the word tshishtashkuan (cheesh-taash-kwan) meaning "nail". It was made by Sheshatshiu Elder, Pien Penashue, with the assistance of his son, Melvin, and nephew, Alistair Pone. Pien’s wife, Nishet, provided information with respect to canoeing and canoe-making in the days before settlement.

Born in 1926 in the Mealy Mountains area, Pien Penashue learned how to make the katshishtashkuatet (nail) canoe from his step-father, Pien Toma.

Pien Toma’s generation made another type of canoe beside the nail variety. This is called katakuashtunanit (ka-ta-kwash-toe-na-neet) the name given to birch bark canoes. In the early 1900s, canvas replaced birch bark as the covering for these canoes, but the method of construction remained virtually the same. To the best of Pien’s knowledge, the nailed canoe method originated among the Sheshatshiu Innu, although in recent years it was also made by Innu from the Davis Inlet area on the north coast of Labrador.

A third way of making canoes involves the use of a shipaitakan (shee-pay-tie-gun) meaning "mould" or "form". Along with the late Mishen Pasteen, Pien learned this technique from the late Johnny Groves, an independent fur trader who lived at Groves Point, near Happy Valley-Goose Bay, before World War II. A form greatly reduced the amount of time required to make a canoe. Once the ribs and planks were made, one person could assemble the canoe in four days or less.

Audio Listen to Natuashish Elder, Munik (Gregoire) Rich, talk about making the nailed canoe

Audio Listen to Pinashue Benuen, another Natuashish Elder, describe canoe-making

Diagram showing the Innu names for the parts of a canoe

Audio Listen to Matinen (Rich) Katshinak talk about canoes

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