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Our first paddle commission

I was asked by Steve Millar, an awesome canoeing instructor in Tollymore National Outdoor Centre, if I could make him a specific paddle.

We chatted for a bit and he showed me a picture of a ‘Haida’ paddle. I associated the Haida people with the Vancouver / Queen Charlotte Islands area of Canada – a coastal region – so wasnt sure what to expect when it came to Haida paddles! I did a bit of digging and found quite a lot.

Haida Houses and Totem poles

The Haida, a North American native culture, settled in the Canadian Queen Charlotte Islands and Alaska area over 8,000 years ago. The rugged terrain, abundant wildlife, cedar forests and proximity to the sea were elements that enabled the Haida to survive for centuries. Their continued survival depended on good stewardship of the land and the Haida culture is one of respect for the earth and its inhabitants. At least 14,000 native people have lived in the 126 known villages in the area. The numbers dropped dramatically upon the arrival of European settlers until in 1911 only 589 native people lived in Old Masset and Skidegate.

Of all peoples of the North West coast the Haida were the best carvers, painters, and canoe and house builders, and they still earn considerable money by selling carved objects of wood and slate to traders and tourists. Standing in the tribe depended more on the possession of property so that interchange of goods took place and the people became sharp traders.
A Haida paddle has a very distinctive shape, with a pointed tip and unusual grip, somewhat reminiscent of a voyageur grip. Steve had used a Haida paddle before and really liked the feel and balance, but couldnt get his hands on one. Maybe the fact that the Haida also used their paddles as weapons made them difficult to get hold of! In the picture to the right, the Haida paddle is the 5th from the left.

Work has started and I should be able to get Steve his paddle in the next fortnight. It will be reasonable long, with ash / cedar laminated shaft and ash, walnut and spruce blade. The tip of the blade will use the ‘slot guard’ tip that we have developed to protect it from damage.