Native American Types of Transportation - dummies

Native American Types of Transportation

By Dorothy Lippert, Stephen J. Spignesi

Part of Native American History For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Native Americans used a wide variety of means of moving around and transporting themselves, and their tribes. The choices depended on the climate and the resources of the area.

  • Dugout canoe: A fire would be set down the middle of the log to efficiently get rid of the central portion. Next, using hand tools, the log was chopped at and gouged out until it was deep and open enough to comfortably fit one or more people.

  • Bark canoes: A bark canoe was comprised of two separate parts: a wooden frame, and a bark outer shell. The bark was almost always birch, and it would be removed in a large single sheet and then stretched out and shaped to fit the wooden frame.

  • Kayaks and umiaks: The original kayak was made of wood and then covered with seal or walrus hide, including the top deck. There is a hole left in the center of the kayak for the paddler, who used a two-headed paddle to avoid switching hands. The difference between the kayak and umiak is that the kayak is a covered boat and the umiak is an open boat.

  • Bull boats: Bull boats were made from birch wood that was shaped into a round shape and then covered with buffalo skin which had not been “de-haired.”

  • Snowshoes: Each tribe designed snowshoes to accommodate the snowfall in their region, and there were many styles created.

  • Plank boats: These boats were between 10 and 30 feet in length and were commonly made from redwood and pine.

  • Travois: A travois was made of two long sticks that were criss-crossed so that the front end could be draped across the animal’s shoulder and not fall off.

  • Sleds and toboggans: A sled has two parallel runners across which slats of wood or leather are placed. It is pulled across snow or ice by people or dogs. A toboggan is a sled but doesn’t have runners or skis. It, instead, has a flat bottom with a curved front and it is pulled by a rope.