Lewis, February 1, 1806
Saturday February 1st 1806. This morning a party of four men set out with Joseph Fields; Sergt. Gass with a party of five men again set out up the Netul river in surch of the Elk which had been killed some days since, and which could not be found in consequence of the snow. The Canoes of the natives inhabiting the lower portion of the Columbia River make their canoes remarkably neat light and well addapted for riding high waves. I have seen the natives near the coast riding waves in these canoes with safety and apparently without concern where I should have thought it impossible for any vessel of the same size to lived a minute. they are built of whitecedar or Arborvita generally, but sometimes of the firr. they are cut out of a solid stick of timber, the gunwals at the upper edge foald over outwards and are about 5/8 of an inch thick and 4 or five broad, and stand horrizontally forming a kind of rim to the canoe to prevent the water beating into it. they are all furnished with more or less crossbars in proportion to the size of the canoe. these bars are round sticks about half the size of a man's arm, which are incerted through holes (just) made in either side of the canoe just below the rim of the gunwall and are further secured with strings of waytape; these crossbars serve to lift and manage the canoe on land. when the natives land they invariably take their canoes on shore, unless they are heavily laden, and then even, if they remain all night, they discharge their loads and take the canoes on shore. some of the large canoes are upwards of 50 feet long and will carry from 8 to 10 thousand lbs. or from 20 to thirty persons and some of them particularly on the sea coast are waxed painted and ornimented with curious images at bough and Stern; those images sometimes rise to the hight of five feet; the pedestals on which these immages are fixed are sometimes cut out of the solid stick with the canoe, and the imagary is formed of seperate small peices of timber firmly united with tenants and motices without the assistance of a single spike of any kind. when the natives are engaged in navigating their canoes one sets in the stern and steers with a paddle the others set by pears and paddle over the gunwall next them, they all kneel in the bottom of the canoe and set on their feet. their paddles are of a uniform shape of which this is an imitation these paddles are made very thin and the middle of the blade is thick and hollowed out siddonly and made thin at the sides while the center forms a kind of rib. the blade occupys about one third of the length of the paddle which is usually from 41/2 to 5 feet. I have observed four forms of canoe only in uce among the nations below the grand chatarac of this river they are as follow. this is the smallest size about 15 feet long and calculated for one or two persons, and are most common among the Cathlahmahs and Wack ki a cums among the marshey Islands. A the bow; B, the stern; these are from twenty to thirty five feet and from two 1/2 to 3 feet in the beam and about 2 feet in the hole; this canoe is common to all the nations below the grand rappids. it is here made deeper and shorter in proportion than they really are.- the bowsprit from C, to D is brought to a sharp edge tapering gradually from the sides.
This is the most common forms of the canoe in uce among the Indians from; the Chil-luck-kit-te-quaw inclusive to the Ocean and is usually about 30 or 35 feet long, and will carry from ten to twelve persons. 4 men are competent to carry them a considerable distance say a mile without resting. A is the end which they use as the bow, but which on first sight I took to be the stern C. D. is a comb cut of the sollid stick with the canoe and projects from the center of the end of the canoe being about 1 inch thirck it's sides parallel and edge at C D. sharp. it is from 9 to 11 Inches in length and extends from the underpart of the bowsprit at A to the bottom of the canoe at D.- the stern B. is mearly rounding and graduly ascending. 1 2 3 represents the rim of the gunwalls about 4 Inches wide, reather ascending as they recede from the canoe. 4 5 6 7 8 are the round holes through which the cross bars are inserted.
This form of canoe we did not meet with untill we reached tidewater or below the grand rappids. from thence down it is common to all the nations but more particularly the Killamucks and others of the coast. these are the largest canoes. B. is the bow and comb. C. the stern and comb. their immages are representations of a great variety of grotesque figures, any of which might be safely worshiped without committing a breach of the commandments.
They have but few axes among them, and the only too usually imployed in felling the trees or forming the canoe, carving &c is a chissel formed of an old file about an Inch or an Inch and a half broad. this chissel has sometimes a large block of wood for a handle; they grasp the chissel just below the block with the right hand holding the edge down while with the left they take hold of the top of the block and strike backhanded against the wood with the edge of the chissel. a person would suppose that the forming of a large canoe with an instrument like this was the work of several years; but these people make them in a few weeks. they prize their canoes very highly; we have been anxious to obtain some of them, for our journey up the river but have not been able to obtain one as yet from the natives in this neighbourhood.- today we opened and examined all our ammunition, which had been secured in leaden canesters. we found twenty seven of the best rifle powder, 4 of common rifle, three of glaized and one of the musqut powder in good order, perfectly as dry as when first put in the canesters, altho the whole of it from various accedents has been for hours under the water. these cannesters contain four lbs. of powder each and 8 of lead. had it not have been for that happy expedient which I devised of securing the powder by means of the lead, we should not have had a single charge of powder at this time. three of the canesters which had been accedentally bruized and cracked, one which was carelessly stoped, and a fifth that had been penetrated with a nail, were a little dammaged; these we gave to the men to make dry; however exclusive of those five we have an abundant stock to last us back; and we always take care to put a proportion of it in each canoe, to the end that should one canoe or more be lost we should still not be entirely bereft of ammunition, which is now our only hope for subsistence and defence in a rout of 4000 miles through a country exclusively inhabited by savages.