September 24, 2013

The voyage of building an outrigger canoe: Outrigger and booms

Part 1: Introduction and author bio
Part 2: Harvesting a canoe log . . . or plywood 
Part 3: Roughing out the hull 
Part 4: Making tools without metal, and, on some islands, without rock 
Part 5: Stitch and glue 
Part 6: Sanding and gluing 

Bishop Museum Canoe
A lovely Hawaiian canoe on display at the Bishop Museum. Two curved booms attach to the outrigger with simple pegs and lashing.

In their great work Canoes of Oceania, a landmark in research of Pacific Islander canoes, published in 1936, authors A. C. Haddon and James Hornell state that their study began with a particular focus on how different island cultures attached the outriggers to their canoes. Clearly this is a distinguishing feature across Oceania—as characteristic, if not more so, than the shapes of the canoes themselves—and I have seen quite a variety in my own limited travels.

For Hawaiians, it was simple: The booms (‘iako) curve down from the gunwales of the canoe and are pegged, then lashed, directly to a banana-shaped outrigger (ama). But elsewhere, it can get very complicated, and for the Melanesia design that I am building, it’s one of these tricky rigs. But first, we have to get all the parts together and hewn into shape. 

Manu a
Manu extending upward on the back end of the ‘Auhou, NMAI’s Hawaiian canoe. Protruding below it is the notched extension where ropes would have been attached to bring the rough-hewn hull out of the forest.

While koa was the tree of choice for canoe hulls, lighter woods were preferred for the rest of the parts. Koa is a very stiff and dense wood and therefore very, very heavy. Jay Dowsett and Tay Perry, who build and refurbish canoes in Honolulu today, note that in the old days, a lot of those canoe hulls were an inch-and-a-half or two inches thick just to keep them rugged. That also made them very heavy. 

Hawaiian canoes have separate gunwale pieces attached (by stitch and glue) atop the hull, culminating in lovely upright prows and sterns called manu, a hallmark of Hawaiian canoe design. These areas, which are repeatedly struck by the paddles, would be made of ‘ahakea—a fairly light wood, but very stiff. It’s comparable to ash, which is not particularly heavy for its volume, but is also very stiff. ‘Ahakea wood is a dull orange-brown and when rubbed with kukui oil becomes a beautiful dark golden yellow. 

HaoTrees1 a
Hau trees, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i.

For the booms (‘iako) that connect the outrigger to the hull, hau was an excellent choice. A member of the hibiscus family, hau grows in low, tumbling forests of curved limbs. Pick two that have the right curve and you’re set. And the wood is light and peels easily. In fact, the bark makes a decent rope. 

Wiliwili seed a
Williwilli seed.
The outrigger, or ama, would be made of wiliwili. This lovely tall tree produces red seeds, and red being the color of chiefliness, these seeds are equated with the blood of the chiefs. Wiliwili is also very light, which is what you want your float to be. Its purpose, you see, is to float.

Here in the mid-Atlantic area, there’s a dearth of ‘ahakea, hau, and wiliwili.  But, as with ash and ‘ahakea, we can look for trees with comparable qualities. Now I knew more about trees in New England, where I spent a lot of my youth, than I did about the mid-Atlantic. Some of these trees around here are completely unfamiliar to me. And I’m not a woodworker to begin with. And in New England, firewood was the big issue, so I became familiar with wood that split well and burned hot. Period. Now I need to know much more about the qualities of different woods.

Fortunately, in the 21st century, there is the online Wood Database. This excellent free resource is quite extensive (though Hawaiian woods are strangely absent) and gives a great deal of information about the qualities of different woods. Among these, the important ones for me are dry weight, strength, shrinkage, workability, and perishability. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between this website and the State of Maryland’s Maryland Trees database, looking at what types of wood are available in this area.

Lightness, for the ‘iako and the ‘ama, was a problem. The trees that are light are often also highly perishable, or just plain hard to find. Cedar, ash, and white pine aren’t common around my area—at least, not that I could find.

Which brings us to another problem: If you live in the city, where do you find trees to cut? Well, there are four solutions. First, make friends with a logger or arborist who cuts trees for a living. Some of them stock up on the wood they cut, because they or their friends or relatives are woodworkers, too. Second, go directly to large private landowners who have some good-looking trees for your purposes, and see if they will let you cut them. Third is tree falls from storms. I have harvested a few pieces from these. Finally, you can be sneaky. After all, there are a lot of trees in my area—along the sides of highways or in highway medians, or the fringes of parks and streams, and so forth: no-man’s lands, in other words. That doesn’t make cutting trees there legal, and the fines can be up to $1000.

I won’t reveal which option I used, but I will say that the trees that I cut were all, with one exception, standing dead—they were not green anymore, but they weren’t starting to rot, either. Okay, one of them could have been a little fresher. And the type I went for was Virginia pine, not a species with which I was previously familiar.

First I cut a big log for the ama. It was a 40-foot tree, clearly dead in the last season, and with my folding handsaw, felling it was quite a chore. I cut the log longer than it needed to be, just in case. It may have been dead, but it was still mighty heavy. I propped one end on the back of my car roof, atop an old blanket, and slid it up on top of the car.  Two straps, two ropes, and away I went, the happy owner of a beautiful pine log. 

The only problem was that I had not read canoe-building the directions carefully. They say the dry weight of the wood for the ama should be about 26 pounds per cubic foot, and no more than 30. Virginia pine is 32 (oak, by comparison, is 42 or more). Back to the databases for another search. The only readily available local wood with a dry weight under 30 pounds is tulip poplar, which is plentiful, but perishable. So for this, I borrowed a friend and his chainsaw and we cut a live tree (after the appropriate propitiation of its spirit and thanks for its life). This totally green log would become my ama. 

For the booms, however, I went back to Virginia pine: light, reasonably straight, tough, and a bit more water-resistant. The only problem with it, as I quickly found out, is that it’s knotty. That makes shaping it down to size more difficult.

The last wood needed is a series of sticks—four per boom, each about two feet long—that connect the ‘iako to the ama. This is not a Hawaiian design at all, as you will see. Here I lucked out. An area in a nearby streamside park had been cleared around some power lines, and a lot of young trees of the right diameter were already lying there cut. 

The process of turning these raw logs and cut saplings into shaped parts was far more laborious than the making of the hull. At the same time, here is where I really got into canoe carving—using bladed instruments to shape the wood. My primary tools were the drawknife (a blade with two handles, mine an antique), a hammer with large chisel, a plane, and a rasp. 

Tools a
Tools (clockwise from upper left): Drawknife, chisel and hammer, plane, carpenter's rasp. 

The drawknife was good for removing bark and roughly taking each log down to the shape and diameter I needed. The hammer and chisel I used to cut out the knots in the Virginia pine and to shape the ends of the ama. The plane helped straighten out uneven areas more finely, and the rasp took care of the minor bumps, knotty areas, and general smoothing. Of course, I finished things off with the miraculous random orbital sander. 

Carving 2 e
Carving 1d
Above: Knots divoted out with hammer and chisel. Right: A boom log after a rough pass with the drawknife.
















Now although the logs for the booms were as straight as I could get them, they still had curves to them. Carving them down to two inches in diameter from around three-and-a-half to four inches—well, yes, it’s a lot of extra work, but it gave me the opportunity to take some of those curves down and make the pieces straighter overall. So after divoting out the knots, I used the drawknife to make the first hard pass, removing the bark and taking off thick strips of wood. Have I mentioned that this took a lot of effort? I wondered if our ancestors had to work this hard, or whether there was some Zen of using this tool that I wasn’t getting. With that in mind, I did get better at it. 

I then used the plane to fine-tune the major work as much as possible, and used the rasp on the ridges and on the lumpy areas around the knots. The two tools worked very well at taking the wood down to a reasonably smooth contour. 

Carving 3 a

Carving 4 a

Carving 5 a
Top: All the carving is done, but the boom still looks pretty rough. Above: Nice and smooth—if not perfectly straight—after sanding. Right:To steady the log while I worked, I set up two bench clamps at the end of my long table and clamped a large C-clamp into them to hold the extended end of the log (cut off afterwards). You can see how much I took off of this log. The carved portion is not centered on the raw end; that was to take out some of the curve. 

Poplar a
The tulip poplar log for the outrigger, with giant strips of bark peeled off.

The ama (float) was a different story. To begin with, the log was green.  First thing I did was to take the bark off so it would begin to dry better.  Lo and behold, tulip poplar is one of those tree species where the bark just peels right off! What a bonus! 

This log, again, was not perfectly straight. It had a curve on one end that I intended to use for the bow end, but side-to-side it had some issues as well. These too I tried to minimize as I took the log down to its final size.

Mostly this log was to stay pretty round, though flattened a bit on the top. The ends, however, were to be tapered down to points. I decided to do the first end with just the hammer and chisel. By this point I was feeling pretty handy with these tools, and they are not too dissimilar from the adze of old—except that they are two separate pieces and the adze is one combined tool. Using the hammer and chisel, I felt, gave me much more precision and control, and reminded me of stone carvers I had seen in my youth. I felt like an artist at last. 

Artistic as the work might have been, it took a long time and a lot of careful eyeing to get the end of the log into the right shape. So to do the other end, I used a technique suggested in the instructions: Make sawcuts of increasing depth, and then chisel these off. Wow, this took much less time. The wood came off in huge chunks, and in half an hour I had done what took me perhaps two days on the first end. 

Ama1 a Ama2

Left: Beginning to shape the end of the ama with hammer and chisel.  Note the lovely dark heartwood of the log. Right: Illustration from Wharram’s instructions on how to shape the end of the ama.  I like how they say that using an electric planer is cheating!  I don’t own one anyway. 

Mind you, I was doing this work in Baltimore in July, when it’s 95 degrees outside and often humid. I moved my work to an old picnic table in the shade and spend days shaping this thing, then leaving it in the sun to dry some more. 

In the end, I not only had a log that I can lift—at first, it was so green and full of water I had to drag it—but an outrigger that, after sanding, looks pretty good. It is already showing some cracks, but I’m not worried about that, because now I know about filleting. Next year when the log is totally cured, I'll fill those cracks and waterproof the float. For now, I’m just going to use it as soon as everything else is done. And I am getting into the final stretch. 


Ama3 a

Ama4 a

My picnic table set-up. You can see that the log has some shape issues. I did my best to deal with these. 


Next: Rope and lashing. 

—Douglas Herman, NMAI

Comments (2)

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I was thrilled to see the photos on this website,,,, and I want to be a native of America to lead his own country

learn so that we all do not become marginalized

why people of his native country should not be the leader????????? I was so sad

August 22, 2013

The voyage of building an outrigger canoe: Sanding and gluing

Part 1: Introduction and author bio
Part 2: Harvesting a canoe log . . . or plywood 
Part 3: Roughing out the hull 
Part 4: Making tools without metal, and, on some islands, without rock 
Part 5: Stitch and glue 

Kapiolani_Canoe a 
The Kapi`olani Canoe, on display in Na Mea Makamae o Hawai'i—Hawaiian Treasures, an exhibition shown at the National Museum of Natural History in 2004–05. This fishing canoe is the oldest documented Hawaiian canoe still in existence. It was already quite old when Queen Kapio`lani sent it to the Smithsonian in 1888.

Before I get into the gluing part of the stitch-and-glue operation, let’s take a few moments to lavish praise on the underappreciated, glorious art of sanding. If you’ve ever worked with wood at all—and almost everyone has done something at some time—you know that sanding smooths down, cleans up, shapes, and beautifies. Something roughly sawn from a piece of wood magically turns into a work of art. It’s a miracle!

In modern boatbuilding, there’s a saying that the work is 90 percent sanding. Well, that has largely to do with the epoxies and varnishes used, numerous layers of which need to be applied, with sanding between each coat. But it is entirely possible that for Hawaiians of old, sanding was still a very big job. Reason? No sandpaper. So, what do you use?

In the blog entry on tools, I mentioned how lava rock is not all created equal. Depending on the mineral content of the eruption and how fast the lava cooled, there is a wide range of densities and textures of lava rock. As the 19th-century Hawaiian historian David Malo documents, “A great many names were used to distinguish different kinds of rocks.” In fact, Malo designates 53 different types, each with its uses. Of these, the kinds used for smoothing and polishing are identified as a-na, ka-wae-wae, o-ahi or o-la-i, o-i-o, po-hue-hue, and puna. Whether anyone today knows which of these is which, I do not know. 

Polishing Stones 1b
Hawaiian polishing stones in the Peabody-Essex Museum collection. Photo by RDK Herman, courtesy of the Peabody-Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

As you can see from the photo above, there is quite a range of textures and colors among polishing stones, including coral stone as well as basalt. Once again, I first imagine the craftsmen who made these stones—chipping and grinding chunks of rock to make flat-faced disks—and then the craftsmen who used them, grinding away at the surfaces of the canoe to make them smooth. 

Sharkskin was the finest grade of sandpaper available. I do not know whether it was used in canoe-building, but possibly so. I've seen the Kapi‘olani Canoe up close and can attest to its smoothness. Today of course we have a wide range of tools, and the work can be remarkably quick and magical. 




Two Holesa

Behold two holes (above left) drilled for where one of the booms will be lashed to the hull. The hole on the left is freshly drilled; the one on the right has already been sanded. What a difference! Then there are the two mid-braces (right), cut out of a poplar board. A little grinding and sanding and they have lovely curved tops and smooth edges. 

Sanding is transformative. Let us rejoice in it! 


Okay, now back to the stitch-and-glue process. After the pieces of the canoe are all stitched together, the major gluing begins. I am using a marine epoxy system that involves pumping epoxy resin and hardener in prescribed amounts, mixing them well for quite a while, and then applying the mix (also called epoxy) in different ways for different purposes. In this case, the resin-hardener mix is combined with wood flour (powdered sawdust the consistency of flour) into a thick, peanut-butter-like substance. This is carefully spread along the inside of each seam, a process called filleting. (It’s pronounced “FILL-it,” not “fill-A,” easy to remember because that’s what it does: fill it in.) Once the epoxy coating is hard and dry, you sand the surface smooth, then run 3-inch fiberglass tape over the filleted seam and epoxy over that layer. Sand and epoxy again, and you have a smooth, rock-hard, durable seam.

Sampler Inside a

I created a little demonstration piece (right) that shows these stages. Toward the left point is bare wood stitched together with copper wires. Then the same with a coating of epoxy. Then the brown filleting, then the fiberglass over the top, and finally recoated with epoxy. 

Fillets a

Here (above) is the inside of the canoe showing the brown fillets along the seams and also around the mid-brace. I filleted around the ends of the seats also, where they meet the hull. The brown of the filleting does not quite match the color of the wood, but oh well. The important thing is that the canoe holds together when I put it in the water. 

Once the fillets are done, you flip the canoe over and carefully cut off the copper wires as close as possible to the hull. These have served their purpose and aren’t needed any more. (Inside the canoe they are hidden under the fillets.) Then with various sanding tools, you grind the sharp seams where the planks meet into nice smooth, rounded edges. These too get epoxied and fiberglassed (but not filleted; that’s just for the inside). See those stripes at the rounded edges? They are the layers of the marine plywood.

Hull & Tools a

Above you see the hull of the canoe, where the copper wires have been snipped off, and some of my key tools: a rasp, which shaves wood down nicely; a plane, which takes off strips and is best when the wood is straight and level; and the wonderful random-orbital sander. What makes it “random,” I don’t know, but it works really well. 

Below you can see that the hull, which after stitching looked kind of like Frankenstein on a bad day, is smoothed and rounded into something that actually looks like a boat!

Sanded Hull 2a


Sanded Hull 1a









The epoxy and fiberglassing then takes place on the outside, hiding over those stitching holes and giving the whole thing a nice, smooth, glossy finish. Before taking the photo below, I've already put several coats of varnish on the hull, which makes it shiny.

Outside Hull-2a

Banana flower, Samoa. After the plant has produced bananas, the leathery flower continues to bloom for a long time. The sap of the banana tree stains very strongly. Don’t get it on your clothes!

You may be wondering what Hawaiians did to protect the hull, since they didn’t have epoxy and varnish. Apparently there were many types of organic paint (pā‘ele) that Hawaiians mixed. In The Hawaiian Canoe, Tommy Holmes writes that the common ingredients included juices from the buds and twigs of the ‘akoko (a type of Euphorbia), the flowers and buds of the banana, and the red inner bark of the kukui tree. A liquid was obtained by pounding and grinding these; then the liquid was mixed with powdered charcoal (some plants provided the best ash or charcoal for this purpose) before being strained. Applied to the hull of the canoe (but not the gunwales), this painted it black. Quoting Z. P. K. Kalokuokamaile’s 1922 Hawaiian newspaper article on canoe-building, Holmes notes that on some canoes, such as those made for chiefs, hens’ eggs and other herbs were then used to make the hull shiny “so that the images of people could be reflected in the sides of the canoes.”

Similarly Holmes quotes N. B. Emerson as saying that instead of charcoal, sometimes ochre or red earth was used to give the hull a reddish color, especially for chiefs (red being the color of chiefliness)—the “red canoe of the king” (wa‘a ula o ke ali‘i).

It may seem hard to believe that this mix of plant juices, charcoal, and possibly dirt protected the hull, and apparently many Westerners who watched the process were skeptical. But Holmes asserts that the pā‘ele was equal to many of the protective hull paints used today. Certainly many Hawaiian canoes lasted for quite a while. And given the amount of work to make one, that’s a good thing. 

Next: Booms and outrigger

—Douglas Herman, NMAI 

Comments (2)

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Nice post.

Great post! I'm glad I stumbled on to this blog series. I've always wanted to try something like this. What type of marine epoxy system do you use?

August 15, 2013

Who won the 2013 Living Earth Festival Native Chef cooking competition? Everyone who loves blueberries!

This year’s fourth annual Living Earth Festival Native Chef cooking competition began at 12 noon on July 21, 2013, and featured the talents of Chef Freddie Bitsoie (Diné) from Phoenix, Arizona, and Chef Don McClellan (Cherokee) from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Chef Freddie is an independent chef and a scholar of food and culture. Chef Don is executive chef with Cherokee Nation Entertainment in northeastern Oklahoma (and also my son). The special ingredient to be used in each of two appetizers, two entrees, and two desserts is blueberries, a fruit native to the Americas. In previous years the competition has featured other foods indigenous to this hemisphere, including green chiles, the Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash), and heirloom tomatoes. 

Traditionally Native Americans used blueberries in ceremonies; as food—fresh or dried, alone or combined with other foods; infused as tea; and to trade to other Natives who did not have access to blueberries.

Both cooking teams
The two teams. Don McClellan is 2nd from the left. Freddie Bitsoie is in the light gray smock, third from the right.

The chefs at this year’s competition were assisted by culinary students from L’Academie de Cuisine here in Washington, DC.  Chef Freddie Bitsoie was also assisted by sous-chef Wilma Consul, and Chef Don McClellan was assisted by sous-chef Carlos Castanedas. Karen Saunders (Red Lake Nation Band of Chippewa Indians), Red Lake, Minnesota; Jerome Grant, sous-chef for the museum’s Mitsitam Café; and Patricia Fields-Alexander (Pawnee Creek) from Muskogee, Oklahoma, judged the competition.

Chef Freddie plating cheesecake dessertChef Don plating salmon dish
Left: Chef Freddie Bitsoie and his team get ready to present their miniature blueberry cheesecakes. Right: Chef Don McClellan and his team plate Coca-Cola BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper, corn, and blueberry salsa.

For the appetizers, Chef Don prepared classic gazpacho but substituted blueberries for the tomatoes; for his second appetizer he made blueberry corn fritters (recipe below). Chef Freddie prepared Kwakiutl-style crab fritters with blueberries and mixed greens and a blueberry-glazed shrimp appetizer with Navajo corn. For the entrees, Chef Don prepared Coca-Cola BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper, corn, and blueberry salsa (recipe below), and roast duck breast atop sweet potato and blueberry puree with grilled asparagus; while Chef Freddie prepared posole with blueberries (recipe below) and pan-seared mahi mahi with blueberry sauce, served with a bean ragout. For dessert Chef Don prepared a parfait of fresh blueberries with crème fraiche and blueberry cinnamon fry bread topped with fresh blueberries, while Chef Freddie prepared fresh blueberries with a blueberry syrup glaze and a blueberry cheesecake (recipe below). 

Three judges
Judges Karen Saunders (Red Lake Nation Band of Chippewa Indians), Jerome Grant; and Patricia Fields-Alexander (Pawnee Creek).
After all of the dishes had been taste-tested by our panel of three judges, everyone’s attention turned to the two folks charged with tallying the results. After several minutes the scores were complete, and the winner of this year’s Native Chef Cooking Competition was Chef Freddie Bitsoie. In spite of the intense outdoor heat everyone participating had a great time. Our thanks go out to all of the many volunteers and sponsors who made this year’s competition such a huge success.

Chefs congratulating each other

Chefs Don McClellan and Freddie Bitsoie congratulate each other on a wonderful competition.

The chefs generously shared four of their best blueberry-centric recipes. I hope you enjoy them.

—Carolyn McClellan

Carolyn McClellan (Cherokee Nation) is the Assistant Director, Community and Constituent Services, of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

All photos are by Katherine Fogden (Mohawk), NMAI.

To see a video fo the competition, scroll past the recipes below. To browse all the videos from Living Earth Festival , visit the museum's YouTube channel.

Blueberry corn fritters 
Chef Don McClellan 

1 dozen ears of corn on the cob, husked 
4 oz flour 
2 oz sugar 
1½ tsp salt 
1 tsp pepper 
2 eggs, beaten 
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded 
8 oz fresh blueberries

1. Cut the kernels from the cob. Scrape well to release all milk.

2. Blend the dry ingredients.

3. Add the corn, eggs, and cheese. Mix to make a batter. Fold in blueberries.

4. Heat oil to 350°F and drop the batter by spoonfuls into the hot oil. 

5. Fry until golden on all sides. Allow to drain.

Serve immediately.

Makes 30 fritters.

Posole with blueberries
Chef Freddie Bitsoie

3 tbl oil
1 lb pork butt, diced
2 tbl paprika
2 tbl cumin
1 to 2 cups red chile, pureed
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz tomato sauce
2 cups cooked hominy
1 cup fresh blueberries
28 oz chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 lime, zest and juice
Cilantro (for garnish)

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil and season with salt and pepper; sear pork till skin forms, then remove.

2. Sweat onion, thyme, and bay leaf in pot.

3. Add paprika, cumin, lime zest, and lime juice.

4. Add pork, garlic, tomato sauce, pureed red chile, and chicken stock.

5. Simmer till meat is tender.

6. Add hominy and fresh blueberries and adjust seasoning.

7. Garnish with cilantro. 

Makes 4 servings.

BBQ glazed salmon with roasted red pepper and corn salsa 
Chef Don McClellan

Coca-Cola BBQ sauce

3 oz unsalted butter
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized yellow onion, minced
1½ cups ketchup
½ cup cider vinegar
¾ cup light brown sugar 
2 tbl Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup tomato paste
3 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp kosher salt
Ground black pepper as needed
12 oz (1 can) Coca-Cola 

1. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic and onions and cook until translucent and soft (approx. 6 to 8 minutes). 

2. Add tomato paste and cook until sauce begins to caramelize (approx. 3 to 4 minutes).

3. Add ketchup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, chipotle powder, salt, pepper, and Coca-Cola. Bring to a simmer and allow sauce to cook and thicken, approx 30 to 40 minutes. 

4. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate until use. 

Makes 2 cups 

Roasted red pepper and corn salsa 

2 red peppers, roasted and julienned
1 roma tomato, diced                        
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
 ½ cup blueberries, fresh
1 lime, juiced 
½ lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients for the salsa together.

Allow flavors to develop by making at least 30 minutes prior to service; for best results make 24 hours in advance. 

BBQ glazed salmon

2 6-oz salmon filets, skin removed 
4 oz Coca-Cola BBQ sauce
Vegetable oil as needed (approx. 2 tbl)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Season salmon with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a medium-sized sauté pan over high heat; pour in oil. Place salmon in pan skin side up; regulate the heat so as not to get the pan too hot. (If you see continual smoke from the pan, reduce the heat). 

3. Allow salmon to cook in pan until you see the edges start to turn an opaque orange color, rather than the vibrant orange raw color (approx. 4 to 5 minutes).

4. Turn salmon over and immediately brush the seared side with BBQ sauce. 

5. Cover the sauté pan with a lid and continue cooking until the salmon is done (approx. 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness). 

6. Remove pan from heat and brush more BBQ sauce liberally over salmon. 

7. Place salmon on plate and top with approx. 3 to 4 oz of salsa. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 6-oz servings. 

Recipe can be served with any starch of your choice: mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, roasted sweet potatoes, couscous, or wild rice. 

Blueberry cheesecake 
Chef Freddie Bitsoie 

1 ½ cup finely ground graham-cracker crumbs
6 tbl butter, melted
1/3 cup agave
4 oz. cream cheese
2 cups whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla
4 oz. dark chocolate, grated (keep cool to avoid melting)
½ cup frozen blueberries
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/3 cup agave
1 packet gelatin (7g)

1. In a small springform pan mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and 1/3 cup of agave and press into the bottom of the pan, forming a crust.

2. Using an electric mixer, cream the cheese, blueberries, lemon zest and juice, and 1/3 cup of agave together.

3. Bloom the gelatin with boiling water; set it aside to cool slightly ( keep the gelatin warm enough to stay liquid).

4. In another bowl, whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.

5. Fold the whipped cream into the cheese mixture.

6. Add the grated chocolate.

7. Pour in the gelatin.

8. Stir the cheese mixture until it is one color, then pour it into the springform pan

9. Cover with plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and allow to set for about 4 hours.

Makes 1 small cheesecake (4 to 6 servings). 

The fourth annual Living Earth Festival Native Chef Cooking Competition at the National Museum of the American Indian. Washington, DC, July 2013. 

Comments (2)

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I love blueberries dish's but i also like that type of group discussion topics. I read your 4 article but i like what you said about "s food—fresh or dried, alone or combined with other foods; infused as tea; and to trade to other Natives who did not have access to blueberries.", I have also been experimenting with pressure on blueberries dish's and beans but i still struggle to get it right..........

GREAT!! Cooking is absolutely my life. And i really thank yo guys for posting and sharing all this stuff all in one blog. I love blueberries and this,Posole with blueberries is I guess a must try. I will surely try it all out. Perfect recipes for my sister's wedding, good food for all, plus a nice wedding entertainment...A total AWESOME.

July 18, 2013

The 2013 Living Earth Festival—Friday, July 19, through Sunday, July 21

LEFestLogo2013The Living Earth Festival, a signature event of the National Museum of the American Indian, will take place this weekend, July 19 through 21. This annual festival celebrates indigenous contributions to environmental sustainability, knowledge, and activism. For a full listing of events, please see the online calendar or downloadable festival brochure. Here are some highlights for visitors of all ages and many different interests.

What activities can families do together? Adults and children in particular are invited to: 

Lisan wins at Santa Fe 2012 cor
Lisan Tiger Blair with the work that won him 1st place in youth sculpture at the 91st Santa Fe Indian Art Market, August 2012; photo by Dana Tiger, courtesy of the artist.
  • Help release lady bugs into the NMAI garden (outside the museum's South Entrance along Maryland Avenue) at 10 AM Friday.
  • Participate in a sculpting workshop led by award-winning young artist Lisan Tiger Blair (Mvskoke Creek) in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center. There are workshops several times each day. Please pick up free timed-entry tickets in advance at the Activity Center.
  • Join Victoria Mitchell (Cherokee Nation) for a pottery demonstration.
  • See amazing beadwork made by Peggy Fontenot (Potawatomi).
  • Enjoy an outdoor cooking demonstration by Patricia Alexander (Pawnee/Creek) or a cheesemaking demonstration by Nancy Coonridge of Pietown, New Mexico.


20100806_01a_eba_ps_002Farmers market and green-chile roasting, NMAI photo.

For organic gardeners, locavores, gourmet cooks, and just plain food-lovers: During the festival, representatives of tribally owned food cooperatives discuss sustainability, and local famers offer produce, meat, and traditional American Indian foods in an outdoor farmers market. The festival begins for foodies Friday morning at 10 AM with the opening of the farmer’s market and a green-chile roasting (both outdoors in the Welcome Plaza throughout the festival). Demonstrations of traditional Native dishes, including venison stew, corn soup, and grape dumplings (outdoors in the Akaloa Firepit), begin Friday at 1 PM and continue all weekend. Sunday from 1:30 to 4:30 PM, Native chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo) and Don McClellan (Cherokee) will compete in an Iron Chef-style cook off (outdoors in the Welcome Plaza). 

05_20.23211514_crop Don McClellan crop

Chefs Freddie Bitsoie (Navajo) and Don McClellan (Cherokee); photos courtesy of the chefs.

What would a Native festival be without music and dancing?
Live performances begin Friday at 1 PM with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Drum and Dance Troupe. Hawaiian music and dance by Halau Ho'omau I ka Wai Ola O Hawai'i follows at 2 PM, and at 3:30, traditional Marimba music by Pequeña Marimba Internacional. 

Saturday afternoon singer and violinist Quetzal Guerrero (noon), contemporary Six Nations rocker Shawnee Talbot, aka She KIng (12:30 PM), and the LA fusion band Ozomatli (2 PM) join the roster of performers. Saturday evening at 5 PM, the three groups will present a longer concert as part of the museum's series Indian Summer Showcase. All music and dance performances take place in the air-conditioned Potomac Atrium.


Quetzal Guerrero miniShe King mini   


Clockwise from upper left: Quetzal Guerrero; photo courtesy of the artist. She King; photo courtesy of the artist.Ozomatl; photo copyright 2012 Christian Lantry.

Are you looking for a Friday evening program? The film series Dinner and a Movie offers cuisine from our Zagat-rated Mitsitam Café, available for purchase from 5 to 6:30 PM, followed by the movie Watershed, showing from 7 to 8:30 PM in the museum's Rasmuson Theater. Watershed highlights people who live and work in the Colorado River Basin, including Jeff Ehlert, a fly fishing guide in Rocky Mountain National Park, and Navajo Council member Glojean Todacheene. These people convey their new water ethic by sharing stories that answer the question, How do we balance the competing interests of cities, agriculture, recreation, wildlife, and indigenous communities all with rights to water? 

The Colorado River from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.

At the heart of the festival each year is the Living Earth Symposium. For 2013, the symposium presents Tribal ecoAmbassadors Saturday July 20, from 2:30 to 4 PM, join us in the Rasmuson Theater to hear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists, tribal college and university professors, and Native students describe how Native communities and individuals are developing innovative and locally relevant solutions to protect the environment and public health. Presenters include EcoAmbassadors from the Navajo Nation and the Tohono O’odham Nation who will address grassroots efforts to reduce carbon on their reservations and provide housing in their local communities.

EcoAmbassador David Stone sharp
ecoAmbassador David Stone and students from Tohono O’odham Community College take a break on a bench made entirely on carbon-negative materials; photo courtesy of the EPA.

The symposium and several other events throughout the weekend will be webcast live on the museum's website. A complete schedule of webcasts from the festival, as well as events on the webcast calendar for later this summer, is available in a separate blog post.

All programs and activities are free and open to the public. As noted above, free timed-entry tickets to the sculpting workshop with Lisan Tiger Blair are avaiable in the imagiNATIONS Activity Center; it might be wise to begin your visit there. Indian Summer Showcase concerts are always very popular and Saturday's promises to be no exception. Seating in the Potomac Atrium is first come, first served. 

We hope to see you here!

—Dennis Zotigh, NMAI

Comments (15)

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I like the work of Shawnee SheKing, Lynn Talbot (Mirror me, This is me etc). I was trying to see if there was a connection in her work with Aboriginal music. It would be great to live close enough to visit the Living Earth Festival to see such energy and creativity. Living in Australia makes it difficult. I enjoy Rap and Hip Hop and I found one of Shawnee's creations sung in that genre. That such energy and creative minds are also involved in protecting the environment, not just here but also in other countries makes me have hope for humankind. I enjoyed reading about the activities planned, with a big sigh at not being able to be there..

In reply to my own comment I listened to Shawnee SheKing singing "She is King" (rap type). I hear drumming connections with Shawnee drumming and the Mohawk drums I have found on the Internet and the sounds made by Iriquois water drums. Of course this could be entirely in my own head. I also loved the haunting sounds of the Mohawk flute music from the smoke dance.

The music was AMAZING! Especially Ozomatl. I was lucky enough to see their first show back in 1995. I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore. Working on training my voice so I can do something similar like Ozomatl.

@William have you heard of a native american band called Apu?

I recently watched them whilst they were on tour of the UK the music they create is fantastic!

Many thanks

I must say - THIS WAS GREAT!
the world is so small, i watched them too on their uk tour!

really amazing and interesting!

Nice work! Keep going!

keep up the good work guys.... amazing....

The music was AMAZING! Especially Ozomatl. I was lucky enough to see their first show back in 1995. I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore. Working on training my voice so I can do something similar like Ozomatl.

I recently watched them whilst they were on tour of the UK the music they create is fantastic!

Many thanks

I collect water drums- have 4 amazing ones and 1 that I am working to restore.

Great guys! Keep on working :)

Amazing work! Keep going

really it is very interesting and amazing.thank you and good luck

good work keep it up.

July 03, 2013

The voyage of building an outrigger canoe: Stitch and glue

Part 1: Introduction and author bio
Part 2: Harvesting a canoe log . . . or plywood 
Part 3: Roughing out the hull 
Part 4: Making tools without metal, and, on some islands, without rock 

Doug Herman and Yoshi Sinoto

Doug Herman and Yoshi Sinoto at the Bishop Museum, 2011. Yoshi demonstrates a model of a voyaging canoe based on his findings at Huahine. 

The only solid archaeological evidence to support the great voyaging tradition that has otherwise been so totally verified—by oral tradition, linguistic evidence, computer modeling, radiocarbon dating, and contemporary voyaging—is two planks and a steering paddle dug up on the French Polynesian island of Huahine between 1973 and 1984 by Yoshiko Sinoto, an archaeologist from the Bernice P. Bishop Museum in Honolulu. The planks—from the sides of the canoe—were nearly 7 meters long, the steering paddle nearly
4 meters. Along the sides of each plank regularly spaced holes were drilled where it would have been stitched to the body of the canoe, and the ends were shaped to form scarf joints where they would have connected with other planks at the ends. The Bishop Museum radiocarbon dated the canoe pieces and other artifacts from the site to between AD 750 and 1100. 

The stitch-and-glue technique of assembling a canoe is clearly both very old and very traditional in the Pacific. While people could have harvested a log large enough for a canoe, the dimensions of a canoe hull are much taller than they are wide. Have a look at the photo below of a Marshallese canoe on Majuro. Looking head-on, you can see that the hull is a very steep V-shape. This differs considerably from the dugout canoes of other cultures. These steep-sided canoes were made to be sailed, to be fast and efficient like a knife through the water. 

The easiest way to achieve this shape is to use a log that is not so big around and then to shape planks and other pieces to extend the height of the sides and perhaps the front. Here (below, left) is a photo of a lovely Carolinian canoe at the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI) Museum of History and Culture on Saipan.  Note how the bow reaches towards the sky and then splits into a V at the top.  To get this height, the bow is made of an entirely separate piece of wood, attached at an angle to the rest of the hull. The gunwales, similarly, have been made of separate pieces and stitched on. 

CNMI Canoe 3a

Left: The steep silhouette of a Marshallese canoe. Majuro, Marshall Islands.
Right: Detail of a Carolinian canoe. Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. 

The technique is pretty straightforward, though the details can get complicated: the pieces are shaped to fit together, holes are drilled, glue and caulk are applied, then the pieces are placed together and stitched. The stitching may remain in the end, or not. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Dig, the last canoe builder on Ulithi Atoll, Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia, while he was at work on a small fishing canoe. You can see in the first image below that the canoe has stitching. A close look at the grain reveals that what may at first appear to be a crack in the original log is actually a seam between two entirely different pieces of wood. Other stitching attaches the gunwales and the bow piece. 

Canoe-builder Daniel Dig. Ulithi Atoll. Yap State, Federated States of Micronesia. 

DanielDig2 a
The bow of Daniel's canoe. 

Here you can see how Daniel has stitched at least three pieces together to make this canoe, including the protruding, skyward-reaching bow piece that is the hallmark of Carolinian canoes.

Daniel worked with “modern” but limited tools: a metal adze and a stone to sharpen it on, an old hand drill, and a wooden hand mallet. Perhaps he had a saw somewhere that I didn't see, but as there is no electricity on this island, I can be sure no power tools were involved.

DanielDigTools a DanielDigTools2a

Daniel's tools: a metal adze, sharpening stone, hand drill, and wooden mallet. 

Breadfruit-resin a
Upper: Collecting breadfruit resin. Lamotrek Atoll. Diagonal cuts are made on the trunk of the breadfruit tree to harvest the milky white sap. Photo by Miki Barzam, Two Oceans. 
Lower: While the glue dries, Daniel uses pegs to tighten the stitches holding the gunwales to the sides of the boat. Later, these stitches will be replaced with countersunk bindings like those along the middle of the hull.

I didn't get to see the actual stitching-and-gluing part of this process, so I don’t know what he used for glue. I do know that all over the Pacific the white, sticky sap of the breadfruit tree was used, along with the pulpy husk of young coconuts as caulk. This is well demonstrated in the excellent documentary The Navigators: Pathfinders of the Pacific, which shows Mau Piailug and his fellow Satawal Islanders building a canoe in the traditional manner. A little more than a minute into this clip from the film, the builders have a blob of the white sap on a stick, set on fire like a burning marshmallow, which they use to smear the sap onto the edges to be glued.

Now you can see that having stitched and glued the gunwales, Daniel has driven wedges into the stitches with his hand mallet. This pulls the stitches very tight while the glue hardens. Later these temporary stitches will be removed and replaced with something more permanent. You can see these finished seams a little lower on the boat where Daniel stitched pieces of wood together to make the hull—very attractive, tight, countersunk bindings. 

In the case of my canoe, the hull is built entirely out of pieces stitched and glued together. For stitching, I am using mostly 18-gauge copper wire (16-gauge for the tougher areas). After drilling holes along both pieces to be connected, you thread a piece of the wire through from the inside until both ends poke out the bottom. Then you grab those ends with pliers, pull hard and twist. Then grab it again, closer to the hull and twist it again. This pulls the stitch very tight, and since it is made with wire, you don’t need to drive wedges in to keep it tight. It will stay. 

I am going to talk about the gluing part in a subsequent post, since in my case, most of the gluing comes after the stitching.  But you will notice that I've coated the interior of the canoe pieces with epoxy, so they are now dark and shiny.  More about that later as well.  Now, let’s stitch this thing together!

Jig a
Time-saving jig.
Step one is to drill the holes. I created a little “jig” out of scrapwood and marked lines on it at ¼ inch. This is the distance the holes are supposed to be from the edge of the boards.Then I drilled two holes, four inches from each end, so I can quickly and easily drill evenly spaced holes ¼ inch from the edge. The jig has two holes so that it can be used in either direction. This made for very fast and even work.  

Hull stitching 1a Hull stitching 2a


Hull stitching 3a Hull stitching 4b

The canoe comes together. 

Here (clockwise from the top right) you can see one of the two bottom pieces all drilled. Next, I stitched these bottom planks together most of the way, adding two braces—one for under each seat—that help hold the two bottom planks at the correct angle. These braces are also stitched and glued. I didn’t stitch the bottom planks all the way to the ends because I figured the ends—the bow and stern—were going to be tricky.  I had no idea . . . .

In the next picture you can see that I'm attaching the first of the two side pieces to the bottom of the hull. In the background of the last photo on the series (bottom left), you can see that I've looped a rope around the end to hold the pieces in place while I work to finish fastening on the side planks up to the ends, and I was rejoicing in how easy it was. 

Everything is going very well at this point—easy as pie. Moreover, it's exciting to see these apparently random pieces of plywood suddenly coming together into something that’s starting to look like a canoe!

Then I got to the bow and stern.  Here the pieces that make the bottom of the hull twist almost 90 degrees—from mostly flat to totally vertical—and they did NOT want to bend easily. Plus there is that extra piece on each end that has to be threaded in. 

Wharram Building Bow a

Assembling the bow in the workshop of catamaran designer James Wharram. These photos from Wharram’s website make stitching the ends look fairly easy. Admittedly, his crew was building a larger canoe than mine, so perhaps there was more leeway for the wood to bend. Perhaps. Photo courtesy of James Wharram. 

I confess that this is the first part of this project that I couldn't do alone. After struggling desperately for a while, I called on my kind neighbor John—who checks on my progress from time to time—for assistance. Even with the two of us, it wasn’t quite working. We needed an extra pair of hands to thread the wire through and twist it, while John and I were squeezing the parts together. Ultimately we used grip-tightening clamps to squeeze and hold the ends together, and then it worked fine. 

Hull stitching 6a

Hey, it looks like a canoe! 

Now at last you can see the entire hull all stitched together. I have, per the instructions, installed the seats temporarily to push out and hold the canoe in its appropriate curved shape, otherwise it would be very narrow. 

There’s still work to be done to finish it off, but  those scraps of plywood are clearly turning into a canoe.  A great feeling of satisfaction. 

—Douglas Herman, NMAI 

Next: Sanding and gluing

All photos by RDK Herman, Pacific Worlds, unless otherwise credited.

Comments (3)

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You should check out "Applegate Boatworks" in Veneta, OR. He's been helping us build tribal westcoast tribal canoes (with the stitch and glue method) since the mid 90's. We've been using them in the tribal canoe journeys for quite awhile now. By doubling up the plywood on the bottom we can replicate the weight (below the waterline) that'd be normally carved into a traditional dugout. I think the biggest stitch and glue canoe he's produced is 36' long with a 6' beam for The Chinook Indian Tribe. But he's produced plenty of others using the help of Tribal canoe skippers and carvers.

Looks amazing! I am an avid kayaker in Texas. It is on my bucket list to construct my very own native kayak. Looks like an Awesome experience.

Justin Watts

I'm glad to find this post, it's very usefull information ! thanks