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Research > 3D Modeling a Coast Salish Canoe

3D Modeling a Coast Salish Canoe

A 25-foot-long dugout canoe was found eroding out of a muddy bank of the Green River, south of Seattle more than 50 years ago (Figure 1). It was recently rediscovered in the Burke Museum collection and identified as an unusual type of river canoe called S.deXwit.

Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Cultural staff of the Burke Museum have launched a research project, with the help from a grant from Traditional Small Craft Association’s John Gardner Fund, to study this rare type of canoe made and used by Coast Salish peoples for hunting, fishing and travel in rivers and estuaries. This collaborative research highlights important aspects of local canoe traditions, specialized technologies adapted for the Pacific Northwest’s extensive inland river systems, and the continuing deep cultural connections to these places.  As part of the research project archaeologists, tribal historians and carvers, will stabilize and document the canoe, as well as carve a replica.

Figure 1: The S.deXwit canoe being recovered from the banks of the Green River, 1963.

Photo: Courtesy Muckleshoot Tribe Archives #2006.40.03

In the documentation stage, Yoli Ngandali used photogrammetry and 3d modeling to digitally connect two previously unconnected parts. Her 3d model has been used to gather measurements of this canoe to be sent to a CNC at the Wood Technology Center at Seattle Centeral College (Figure 2). The canoe was 3d printed at 1:15 scale and will be used in Burke Museum Public education events such as Archaeology Day and Behind the Scenes night (Video 3d print). The 3d model also served as a measurement guide for Master Carver George Swanaset. His expertise is critical to understanding the construction of the canoe, building a proper cradle to support it, and carving a replica in the later phase of this project. This project is still underway and we will report on our findings as they unfold. Stay tuned for more about the ancient Coast Salish canoe project in the future!

Project Team