"Huron" Canoes

Possibly the shop of G & C Groslouis Enr., Village Huron (photo courtesy Dick Persson)

"Huron" canoes were built by a group of different canoe builders living in a village north of Quebec City. This "First People village" is located just and was first settled by the Wendat/Hurons in 1697. The reserve took on many different names over time; including Lorette, and Huron Village before finally adopting the name Wendake in 1986.

This reserve has over the last 300 years been home to many canoe builders, small operations as well as fair sized ones. Four families (Bastien, Groslouis, Sioui and Picard) seem to have been involved as owners or employees in almost all of these companies. Canoes from these builders (listed below) were sometimes also sold by and under the Eatons and Sears names.

  • Bastien Bros., Village Huron
    • Big Chief Canoes, (a Bastien Bros. trademark)
  • YAHO, G & C Groslouis Enr., Village Huron
  • Gagnon Bros. Limited, Loretteville
  • Gagnon & Jobidan, Loretteville
  • Cagnon Canoe Reg'd, Loretteville
  • Bastien Industries, Lorette
  • Louis A. Picard, Village-des-Hurons
  • and many others.

Faber & Company (not Huron/Wendat owned or operated) was located just outside the reserve but employed Huron/Wendat people.

Bastien Bros.

Bastien Brothers were located in Village Huron, one of many builders in that region. For at least part of their history they were marketed under the name Big Chief Canoes. I believe that the firm only manufactures snowshoes today.

Bastien Bros. canoes may be marked in one of several ways. A metal nameplate like the one pictured below, a similar deck decal, or a decal with an indian head located on the bow.

Bastien deck plate
Photo courtesy John Maziarz

(Actual size is about 2 1/2" long). The text reads:

Big Chief Canoes
Bastien Bros.
Made to Please
Village Huron, Que.
EST. 1878

Physical characteristics: Hurons tend to be stocky, smaller canoes. They have fairly wide ribs (1½" - 1¾") and babiche (varnished leather strips) seats with the stern seat set very far back. The deck is sort of heart shaped and fairly small,similar to the image below. The decks are usually arrowhead-shaped; notches are cut to hold the ends of the inwales, rather than running them to the stemhead. Huron canoes usually have gunwale caps.

The boats came in 12', 14' and 16' lengths. They generally used fairly poor quality wood. The inwale was often soft wood (spruce?) and covered with a strip of ash or some other hardwood tacked to the top. If you have the canvas off, check the planking. There may be frequent gore cuts (vees cut about 3/4 of the way through the wood to make it easier and faster to fit the planking around the curves of the boat.

The boats were covered in either painted canvas (in red or green, other colours may have been available) or vinyl-impregnated canvas.

Thanks to Dick Persson for the info on "Huron" canoes, and to Dave Robinson for allowing me to use the information on his website giving the physical characters of Bastien Bros. canoes.

Further Information:

Restoration of a 16' Huron canoe by Steve Hanes of Ottawa. Great story, nice pictures.

Tripper Dave's original Huron Canoe page. Dave was kind enough to allow me to use his material in the Identification Guide. Thanks Dave!

Louis A. Picard

Louis A. Picard was small canoe builder in a line of many from the Huron Village in Quebec, Canada.

Construction Features: Picard canoes show many features in common with "Huron" canoes. Deck shaped with simple semi-circle. Wide, untapered ribs. Ends of half-ribs uneven. Rawhide laced seats. Simply shaped thwarts. In general, construction is not refined, but these canoes have a reputation of being fine paddlers.

Left: Picard canoe bow deck with nameplate.

Above: Picard canoe bow profile.

Right: Interior of Picard canoe.

Photos courtesy Joe Millner.