Paddlers of Coast Salish racing dugouts competed at summer festivals in the 19th century and continue to compete today.

In communities along the Canadian and American coasts, dugout canoe races attract thousands of spectators each weekend from May until September.

Paddlers of Coast Salish racing dugouts competed at summer festivals in the 19th century and continue to compete today.

In communities along the Canadian and American coasts, dugout canoe races attract thousands of spectators each weekend from May until September.


© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

racing dugout

The "Bluebird" Salish racing dugout was carved from a single Western Red Cedar log. It sped along courses up to 16 kilometers long. Paddled by 10 men and a steersman, this craft is an excellent example of a grand war canoe.

Photographer: Michael Cullen
The Canadian Canoe Museum

986.16
© 2000, The Canadian Canoe Museum.


Coast Salish Master Carver, Simon Charlie of Cowichan Bay, British Columbia, carved the lengthy "Bluebird". This dugout is constructed from a single log of Western Red Cedar. Measuring 16.4 meters (53 feet 8 inches), the Bluebird is the longest craft in the Canadian Canoe Museum’s collection. Ten men and a steersman paddled the Bluebird. Lore and tradition surround this tremendous racing canoe and it is said that the Bluebird never lost a race. It was retired from racing circa 1970.
Coast Salish Master Carver, Simon Charlie of Cowichan Bay, British Columbia, carved the lengthy "Bluebird". This dugout is constructed from a single log of Western Red Cedar. Measuring 16.4 meters (53 feet 8 inches), the Bluebird is the longest craft in the Canadian Canoe Museum’s collection. Ten men and a steersman paddled the Bluebird. Lore and tradition surround this tremendous racing canoe and it is said that the Bluebird never lost a race. It was retired from racing circa 1970.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Coast Salish Canoe

This Coast Salish dugout canoe is from the Port Madison Reserve in Washington, USA.

Photographer: Michael Cullen
The Canadian Canoe Museum

977.5
© 2000, The Canadian Canoe Museum.


Canoe Race

Archival photograph of the Indian canoe race in Inner Harbour, Victoria, British Columbia.

Photographer: Alexander Henderson
1904
AO7202
© British Columbia Archives


The Coast Salish peoples inhabit coastal and adjacent areas of British Columbia and Washington State. Here immense rivers, placid estuaries, distinct topographies and climate provide abundant resources. The Coast Salish peoples’ canoes demonstrate their needs, ranging from small clam collecting boats to large ocean-going war canoes. Canoes are a central part of Coast Salish life.
The Coast Salish peoples inhabit coastal and adjacent areas of British Columbia and Washington State. Here immense rivers, placid estuaries, distinct topographies and climate provide abundant resources. The Coast Salish peoples’ canoes demonstrate their needs, ranging from small clam collecting boats to large ocean-going war canoes. Canoes are a central part of Coast Salish life.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Canoe Race

Archival photograph of a canoe race, Alert Bay, British Columbia.

Archival photograph
1937
F5320
© British Columbia Archives


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Describe the canoes of the Salish coast, using examples
  • Explain the significance of the canoe to Salish coast life
  • Recognize the historical significance of canoe racing for Salish coast peoples

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans