Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
August 26, 2000 - Issue 17

Birchbark Projects

Make a Birchbark Canoe

Make a miniature canoe that really floats. It is fast and easy and is a great recycleable project. Parental supervision is recommended. This project is rated VERY EASY to do.

What You Need

  • Birch bark. Use the bark from a birch tree that is no longer alive or make your own.
  • Glue (Elmer's glue is fine but a glue gun works better -- then you don't have to hold ends together while they dry.)
  • Scissors

How To Make It

  • Cut a strip of bark that is about 3" (8cm) wide and about 5" (13cm) in length.
  • Cut ends to resemble a V. Make the V about 1/2" (1cm) deep.
  • Fold the bark in half lengthwise.
  • On each end, overlap the bark remaining after cutting out the V. Overlap them until the top edges are even and you have a canoe shape. Glue the ends together.
  • After the glue dries, put the canoe in water and see it float!

You can also make a canoe from paper, but it won't be waterproof.

Birch Bark Basket

Many Native peoples make baskets using the bark from the birch tree. These are used to do everything from carry water to carry babies!!

You can make your own baskets using any kind of paper. A recipe for making realistic looking birch bark out of watercolor paper is given at the bottom of this page. Natives use spruce root and sweet grass to decorate and sew their baskets, but you can use yarn, twine, or even a shoe lace.


  • Start with a piece of paper and mark four lines.
  • Cut the paper.
  • Next fold the side flaps in so that they overlap.
  • Cut the corners off .
  • Fold the ends up and glue in place. You can use a paper clip to hold your basket together while the glue is drying. Punch holes around the top edge of the basket with a hole punch. Glue twine around the top edge if desired. Use twine or yarn to "sew" the top edge of the basket using the punched out holes.

Make your own birch bark:

  • heavyweight watercolor paper
  • toilet paper
  • water
  • brushes
  • paints
  • leather strip or brown twine.
  • glue
  • scissors

Do not strip real birch bark from trees as it will kill the tree.

Wet heavy weight water color paper with a wide brush. Make sure all the paper is wet. Lay pieces of toilet paper across the paper. The water will make it crinkle up and stick to the paper. When the entire piece of paper is covered, and while still wet, paint small areas with a light rust and gray color. Let dry and use a small brush with black paint to draw fine lines across the paper. (Look at some real trees for the color patterns.) Let dry and you are now ready to cut the paper for whatever project you desire.

Cut out with scissors. Punch holes with a hole punch where indicated. Use glue to glue the leather strip or brown twine along the top of the basket.

NativeTech: Birchbark

Building a Birchbark Canoe

Birch Trees



Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.

Canku Ota is a copyright of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the Copyright © 1999 of Paul C. Barry. All Rights Reserved.