The Nez Perce way of making a Dugout Canoe

"The technique they used in those days involved a lot of fire," says Jack McKey. "Fire building requires several things. You've got to have a supply of clay. That's how you control the fire, with wet clay and a wood that burns hot. Most boats were built with green wood, which is harder to burn than dry wood. You've got a lot of mass to remove. Alder in its green, fresh cut form, with oxygen applied to it with fans, can burn hot enough to weld steel.

"Clays are placed along areas you are going to leave, so the fires don't burn those areas. As you fan the heat, flames come up. The deeper the boat, the less oxygen is available, so you have to stand there and fan the different flames, so you don't end up with an uneven bottom."

"In spreading the canoes, they would use a mixture of urine and water, usually fermented urine. The ratio is about a gallon urine to two gallons of water. You pour it in the boats, the wood absorbs the ammonia, the ammonia softens the wood. This enables them to put hot rocks in the boat, steam the boat and spread the sides out, to create a flared-sided vessel. If done well, you can create a load-bearing vessel that can carry at least a third more."

"We've always considered Plymouth Rock as the discovery of America, but America wasn't discovered until Lewis and Clark got to Orofino, Idaho," says Jack McKey. "That's when they realized we've got a whole country behind us and we've made it to the ocean. They knew then they had it in the bag. It also gave us California. It gave us everything to the south of us. It clinched Texas. They made it, they did it, and when they got to virtually Weippe, where they met the Nez Perce for the first time, that was the discovery of America. That was America. That clinched it. We did it."


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