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A Journey to a New Land

Yukon horse
Multimedia Library

Dr. Richard Shutler

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University

Skin Boats

I did some work up in the Yakutat Bay area where F. de Laguna did a lot of ethnography. The Tlingit Indians told her a lot of their historic stories about the people of that area for thousands of years using sealskin canoes and umiaks, (the word for an Eskimo woman’s boat) and they can be quite large. This is what I think the people coming down the west coast from Siberia and Alaska would have used. They would be easy to pull up on an ice flow, to fish, hunt and cook dinner. People have raised objections to this because of the presence of glaciers coming right down to sea level but in this place, the Yakutat area, stories were told of the Indians using sea caves through the glaciers enabling them to get into the backcountry to hunt. In this same publication, they quote Fladmark, one of the first to advocate the Coastal Route that “people could have come down that coast anytime in the last sixty thousand years”.