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washington irving  :  columbia river canoes, 1836 

Washington Irving   :  Columbia River Canoes, 1836.

 Extract from
Irving, Washington:
Astoria ;
or Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains.
 Baudry's European Library, Paris,1836.

Internet Archive

This reference was identified by Herve Magnificat, and posted on The Surf Blurb, 11 June 2013.
It was included, under the heading "Did native Americans surf ? Native Americans of north-west coast used to ride waves with skill and coolness," with:
1868 Gilbert  Sproat : Canoe Riders of Vancouver Island.

While this quotation demonstrates considerable canoeing skills, the text is somewhat unclear whether the "waves" are swell at sea or waves in the surf-zone, and it is unclear if the report  specically details wave riding.
However, on 26th August 1912, the Tacoma Times reported a group of day-vistitors traveled on the Northern Pacific Railway to Moclips Beach in Washington where the various entertainments included "surf riding by the Quinalt (sic) Indians."
The Quinault Indians had developed a high degree of skill with canoes carved from cedar trees in a variety of specialized designs adapted to
rivers, estuaries, and the sea.
Moclips may be a variation of the Quinault No-mo-Klopish, meaning “people of the turbulent water.”

Also see:
1815 Peter Corney : Hawai'i and Columbia River.
1835 Rev. Samuel Parker : Native Canoe at Columbia River.
1868 Gilbert  Sproat : Canoe Riders of Vancouver Island.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no accounts of the maritime skills of the native inhabitants of California, their culture coming under severe pressure with the arrival of Spanish missionaries in 1697.
By 1820 Spanish influence was marked by the chain of missions occupying a 25 mile wide coastal zone between Loreto, north to San Diego, to just north of today's San Francisco.

-Wikipedia: History of California to 1899, viewed 14 June 2013.

There is substantial archeological evidence indicating that the Americas were intially occupied by coastal migration (known as the coastal migration theory), and ancient occupation of the off-shore islands by the coastal tribes of California necessitated the use of sea-going canoes and employed considerable maritime skills.

"Archaeological research has shown that San Miguel Island was first settled by humans at least 12,000 years ago, in the Millingstone Horizon archaeological period.
Because the northern Channel Islands have not been connected to the adjacent mainland in recent geological history, the Paleo-Indians who first settled the island clearly had boats and other maritime technologies.
Rough seas and risky landings did not daunt the Chumash people.
They called the island Tuquan in the Chumash language, and for several centuries, they used plank-built canoes, called tomols, to reach their settlements."

-Wikipedia: San Migel Island- History, viewed 14 June 2013.

For a recent compliation of scientific artcles supporting coastal migration theory, with some work in California, see:
Bicho, Haws, and Davis (editors): Trekking the Shore- Changing Coastlines and the Antiquity of Coastal Settlement (2011).

Herve also attached two illustrations to his post.
The first,  W. de la Montagne Cary's Indian Canoe Race, published by Harper’s Weekly in 1874, illustrates a paddling-while-standing  technique in bark-canoes.
The second is Los Indians de Pacifique, drawn by G. D’Antonio for the cover of a French educative comic book, Histoire du Far West, published in 1982.
In this fanciful represenation, a native prepares to launch his spear-harpoon while the crew ster the canoe on a considerable wave.
Reproduced below.

Page 49

The natives inhabiting the lower part of the [Columbia River] river, and with whom the company was likely to have the most frequent intercourse, were divided at this time into four tribes, the Chinooks, Clatsops, Wahkiacums, and Cathlamahs.
They resembled each other in person, dress, language, and manner; and were probably from the same stock, but broken into tribes, or rather hordes, by those feuds and schisms frequent among Indians.

These people generally live by fishing. It is true they occasionally hunt the elk and deer, and ensnare the waterfowl of the ponds and rivers, but these are casual Iu;[uries.
Their chief subsistence is derive from the salmon and other fish which abound in the Columbia and


its tributary streams, aided by roots and herbs, especially the wappaioo, which is found on the islands of the rirer.

As the Indians of the plains who depend upon the chase are bold and expert riders, and pride themselves upon their horses, so these piscatory tribes of the coast excel in the management of canoes, and are never more at home than when riding upon the waves. (..)

Their canoes vary In form and size.
Some are upwards of fifty feet long, cutout of a single tree, either fir of white cedar, and capable of carrying thirty persons.
They have thwart pieces from side to side about three inches thick, and their gunwales flare outwards, so as to cast off the surges of the waves.
The bow and stern are decorated with grotesque figures of men and animals^ sometimes five feet in height.

In managing their canoes they kneel two and two along the bottom, sitting on their heels, and wielding paddles from four to five feet long, while one sits on the stern and steers with a paddle of the same kind.
The women are equally expert with the men in managing the canoe, and generally take the helm.

It is surprising to see with what fearless unconcern these savages venture in their light barks upon the roughest and most tempestuous seas.
They seem to ride upon the waves like seafowl.
Should a surge throw the canoe upon its side and endanger its overturn, those to windward lean over the upper gunwale, thrust their paddles deep into the wave, apparently catch the water and force it under the canoe, and by this action not merely regain an equilibrium, but give their bark a vigorous impulse forward.

Irving, Washington:
Astoria ; 
or Enterprise Beyond the Rocky Mountains.

Internet Archive

W. de la Montagne Cary: 
Indian Canoe Race.
Harper’s Weekly, 1874).

G. D’Antonio:
Los Indians du Pacifique, 1982.

Cover of a French educative comic book, Histoire du Far West, 1982.

Images forwarded by 
Herve Magnificat, 11 June 2013,

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Geoff Cater (2013) : Washington Irving : Columbia River Canoes, 1836.