Pequot Museum Rescues a Rare Find 200-year-old hand-fashioned canoe discovered in storage shed

MASHANTUCKET, CT – On Aug. 15 and 16, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center (MPMRC) gave media and friends of the museum a rare look at an extraordinary 19th century birchbark canoe. Nearly 200 years old, the canoe was made in the northern Great Lakes region and eventually discovered in a storage shed at an old trading post in Canada’s Northwest Territories. This remarkable find requires extensive conservation work before it can be exhibited for the public. The project could take up to two years and cost an estimated $5,500.

Completely hand-fashioned with layers of sewn birch bark, hand-tied fastenings, and carved with meaningful symbols, the canoe was probably used to dispatch important dignitaries, goods, and messages. According to the Pequot Museum Chief Conservator Doug Currie, it has been extensively examined and documented to establish its construction and condition.

After it was discovered, but before MPMRC acquired it, several improper restorations were applied which are now causing further damage and need to be removed.

Chief Conservator Doug Currie remarked, “The canoe is a significant find because it is a very rare and beautiful piece that provides insight into an important period in Native American history.”

“It needs to be stabilized before it can be displayed for the public to enjoy,” added Currie. “Once we have raised enough funds for this conservation project, we hope to partner with a Native American canoe builder from Maine, who will restore the canoe here in our Conservation Lab. We’re exploring the possibility of using streaming video, so the public can monitor his progress.”

This canoe is built in a style favored by the North West Company and later the Hudson’s Bay Company during the 18th and 19th centuries. Canoes like this originated among the Algonquin nations of Quebec and were modified by the needs of the fur trade companies and by individual builders across Canada. Many of these canoes were 20 or 30 feet long and were used to haul vast loads of fur and trade goods to the trading posts. By the end of the 19th century most of the fur trade canoes had been replaced by wooden boats and steamships. However native builders continued to make smaller canoes for their own use right up to the present day.

The Pequot Museum & Research Center is a conscientious steward of more than 100,000 precious objects used to portray the artistic and cultural heritage of Eastern Woodlands Native peoples. Many of these objects require conservation in order to make them accessible to researchers and to the general public through exhibitions.

As a non-profit educational institution, the museum relies on donations for these types of conservation projects. To donate or learn more contact Gayle Hargreaves at (860) 396-6838


About the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center, part of the government of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, is a non-profit educational institution that seeks to further knowledge and understanding of the richness and diversity of the indigenous cultures and societies of the United States and Canada. The MPMRC provides exhibits, programs, and research opportunities to encourage interaction with and among indigenous peoples, the general public, and the scholarly community. Summer hours at the Pequot Museum are Wednesday – Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm, June 22 – August 31.  Visit: or call (800) 411-9671.

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