George Blake


Yurok redwood dugout canoe carving

Redwood canoes were once the main mode of transportation between the peoples of the Hupa, Yurok, and Karuk tribes of Northern California.  They are a vital element of these tribes' Boat Dance and White Deerskin Dance ceremonies that are still held to this day.  Currently, there are only approximately four men in existence who maintain the knowledge and ability to construct a redwood dugout canoe.  This art form is in grave danger of being lost, which would be detrimental to the cultural health of the native people of Northern California.

George Blake began carving redwood dugout canoes as a child over 60 years ago.  He began carving canoe miniatures under the guidance of master Haynes Moore.  After Haynes' passing, George worked with master Dewey George, who helped him build a canoe that is still utilized in ceremonies today.

As a artist in ACTA's Apprenticeship Program in 2014, George worked with his son Sagep Jacob Blake and his nephew Caw-Tep Wolf Lee Sylvia.  George trained his apprentices in the knowledge and skills necessary to carve a redwood dugout canoe; the apprenticeship's ultimate goal was to complete a twelve-foot canoe.

Images

Click on any image to view slideshow.

Apprentice Caw-Tep Wolf Lee Sylvia (green shirt) in an in-progress Yurok redwood dugout canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Apprentice Sagep Jake Blake carving a traditional Yurok redwood dugout canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Apprentice Sagep Jake Blake digging the interior of a traditional Yurok redwood dugout canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Apprentice Sagep Jake Blake does finishing work on the traditional Yurok redwood dugout canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Master artist George Blake carving a traditional Yurok redwood dugout canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Master artist George Blake completing the design of a traditional Yurok redwood dugout canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Master artist George Blake demonstrates burning (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
Master artist George Blake seals the canoe (Photo courtesy of George Blake)
The canoe after the final burn (Photo courtesy of George Blake)

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