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NATIVE AMERICAN DUGOUT CANOES
Of the CAROLINA SOUNDS

One look at the map of northeastern North Carolina, with its many creeks, rivers, bays, sounds and ocean on the east, will readily show the necessity of watercraft for most transportation in the area down through history. The native Algonkians had devised dugout canoes of various sizes for hunting and for gathering and for travelling from one place to another.


"The Manner Of Making Their Boats"
Engraving by Theodor De Bry (1590)

The manner of making their boats in Virginia is very wonderful . For whereas they want Instruments of iron, or other like unto ours, yet they know how to make them as handsomely, to sail with where they list in their Rivers, and to fish withall, as ours. First they choose some long, and thick tree, according to the bigness of the boat which they would frame, and make a fire on the ground about the Root thereof, kindling the same by little, and little with dry moss of trees, and chips of wood that the flame should not mount up too high, and burn too much of the length of the tree. When it is almost burnt through, and ready to fall they make a new fire, which they suffer to burn until the tree fall of its own accord. Then burning of the top , and boughs of the tree in such ways that the body of the same may Retain his just length, they raise it upon sticks laid over cross wise upon forked posts, at such a reasonable height as they may handsomely work upon it. Then take they of the bark with certain shells: they reserve the innermost part of the [unclear: lennke], for the nethermost part of the boat. On the other side they make a fire according to the length of the body of the tree, saving at both the ends. That which they think is sufficiently burned they quench and scrape away with shells, and making a new fire they burn it again, and so they continue sometimes burning and sometimes scraping, until the boat have sufficient bottoms. Thus God endows this savage people with sufficient reason to make things necessary to serve their turns.


Their Manner of Fishing in Virginia
Watercolor by John White (1585)

They have likewise a notable way to catch fish in their Rivers, for whereas they lack both iron, and steel, they fasten unto their Reeds or long Rods, the hollow tail of a certain fish like to a sea crab instead of a point, where with by night or day they strike fish, and take them up into their boats. They also know how to use the prickles, and pricks of other fish. They also make wares, with setting up reeds or twigs in the water, which they so plant one with another, that they grow still narrower, and narrower, as appears by this figure. There was never seen among us so cunning a way to take fish withal, whereof sundry sorts as they found in their Rivers unlike unto ours, which are also of a very good taste. Doubtless it is a pleasant sight to see the people, sometimes wading, and going sometimes sailing in those Rivers, which are shallow and not deep, free from all care of heaping up Riches for their posterity, content with their state, and living friendly together of those things which god of his bounty has given unto them, yet without giving him any thanks according to his desert.

Source: A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, by Thomas Hariot (1590). Documenting the American South, The University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Prepared by John McGowan and Other Descendants of Carolina Watermen

Copyright 2005
Carolina Work Boats Project

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