The canoe in the collection The Rooms Provincial Museum, 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.
The canoe in the collection The Rooms Provincial Museum, 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.

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.

Innu canoe - ush

Innu Canoe - ush

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


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

The nails were used on...all parts of the canoe. And the wood is carved too. When the canoe is all done, it’s ready for canvas. I never heard if it was made out of hide. I only saw one with canvas. The canoe is made big enough for one family, but some people with many children didn’t have enough room for everyone. The canoes were big. In the past, anyone could build a canoe, not just think about it. They would just go ahead and make one. They would just build their canoes in a good place, and find where there were good trees.

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


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

I used to make what we call katakuashtunanit. It wasn´t perfectly made. We didn´t exactly know how to make one. But there´s another type of canoe that I used to make. It´s the one made with nails. Back on Mushuau-shipu (George River), people were always making these [Katakuashtunanit].

I´ve seen people make them around Mushuau-shipu (George River), and afterwards, they traveled to the coast, to Voisey´s Bay, to see Mr. White (an independent trader). Mr. White used to live around there. Everybody went there. And there was no Davis Inlet back then. Also, the Innu used to come to the coast to see Father O´Brien (a Catholic missionary) using this type of canoe [katakuashtunanit]. First they would travel to Voisey´s Bay, and then later to what was then Davis Inlet.

This was right after the canoes were finished. These were quite hard to make, but today, we call them mashtukuta (canvas-covered canoes), the kind you see around today. The ones they used to make with nails.

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


Listen to Matinen (Rich) Katshinak talk about canoes

Matinen (Rich) Katshinak (MK): When Shushep was not around when we lived in the country, I had to portage the canoe when we moved our camps. None of the women at our camp could portage a canoe. When the men were not around, I had to portage the canoe.

My father was already gone [deceased]. My uncle, Shushepish, was still alive back then. One time, I had to portage two canoes. The women couldn´t lift those canoes. I could lift those canoes no problem.

Nympha Byrne (NB): Did you carry it far?

MK: Yes, I carried it far. It was a long portage and it was out in the barrens.

NB: Do you remember the name of the place that you carried those canoes?

MK: It was at Shapiass. The lake is called Shapiau (Shapio Lake) and it had mountains. It had a lot of lakes. I portaged those canoes through the barrens. I didn´t portage through the bushes. When we got to the mountains, I had to portage those canoes because the men had to go caribou hunting. We moved our camp.

One time I portaged a canoe very far. It was at the mountain. We had to go to the mountain to get to the lake. I was walking with my father and mother [her biological aunt and uncle]. That was your grandfather, the late Shushepish. My real father was not around back then. He died.

We left for the country. I portaged a canoe again. We left from Sheshatshiu. I had to portage by myself. The men were not around again. I did another portage all by myself. It was very heavy. I portaged it.

NB: Did you carry it on your back?

MK: Yes, I carried it at the back of my neck. Did you ever notice how people carried the canoes? That´s how I carried it.

Pinamen [her sister] and the late Manish Tshakapesh couldn´t portage a canoe. They only lifted their canoes and carried them. I portaged my canoe. I tried nuipiuten too. The people that camped with us didn´t want me to do it.

NB: What does nuipiuten mean?

MK: It´s rapids. Did you ever see a video of people going through the rapids with their canoes? That´s what it means. The rapids. (Note: the MacKenzie´s Shoebox dictionary lists piutamu as "she/he shoots the rapids, canoes in white water.").

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. Tous droits réservés.


Diagram showing the Innu names for the parts of a canoe

A - takuaikan B, C - mekuamitaku D - nishtamitaku 1 - kapiten 2 - tetaut-apikan 3 - minikukanashku 4 - tshinatinau 5 - utshanikush / ushkatitshekan 6 - apikaniss 7 - apinan-apikan 8 - anashkan 9 - uatshinau 10 - ashpitakaikan 11 – mishkutui 12 - kanishtamitakutshet 13 - katakuashtunanit katshishtashkuatet shipaitakan - ush

The Rooms
Peter Armitage, curator/facilitator (St. John's, NL), Nympha Byrne, researcher (Natuashish, Labrador) and Gillian Davidge, education consultant (The Rooms, St. John’s, NL)

© 2008, The Rooms. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

• Describe the three different methods of canoe construction practiced by the Innu before settlement
• Examine how new materials introduced by Europeans were adapted by the Innu in the design and construction of canoes


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