AmeriCorps to launch dugout canoe Saturday

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Working on the one-person vessel since October, Irina Garner and her fellow AmeriCorps interpretive rangers will launch their dugout canoe in the Etowah River Saturday. Dedicating about 140 hours to the endeavor, they are continuing to share their living history demonstration with patrons of the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site.

“When people come to Etowah, they want to learn about the ancient civilization and the people who lived there,” Garner said. “Throughout the year, Etowah and Friends of Etowah come together to perform large events where ancient methods and games are demonstrated. The dugout canoe was an opportunity to have a live demonstration throughout the year for guests to interact with. Archaeological evidence has revealed the methods that indigenous peoples of the Southeast used to build a dugout canoe, and we are trying to accurately emulate those methods for our own dugout. We hope to enhance the guest experience with this demonstration and help bring ancient methods to life.

“I have assisted with the gathering of the poplar log, prepping it for burning and burning it to a canoe shape. It's a great way to educate the public on ancient methods.”

On Saturday, AmeriCorps rangers will launch the canoe at 1:30 p.m., with Garner inside the 8-foot vessel.

Through the AmeriCorps rangers’ project, patrons are learning more about the 54-acre site, where several thousand American Indians lived from A.D. 1000 to A.D. 1550. Regarded as the most intact Mississippian Culture site in the Southeast, Etowah Indian Mounds at 813 Indian Mounds Road in Cartersville features six earthen mounds, a village area, a plaza, borrow pits and a defensive ditch.

“I am [excited], if nothing else as experimental archaeology,” said Etowah Indian Mounds Curator Keith Bailey, about the upcoming launch. “A lot of people say that a canoe would have taken such and such time to create. … There’s no instructions how to do it really other than some firsthand accounts of how it was done. I know that there’s people in other countries that still build canoes that way. But there’s no way for these rangers to really [have] known how to have done it. So for them to get out here and use the fire and the adze and other tools that they were using to try to build a canoe they could float in the river and maneuver, it’s been a challenge for them to figure out the best way of doing certain things and to overcome problems that they didn’t foresee with the wood cracking in some places and things.

“So to be able to see them get out there in the canoe and launch it and see it maneuver … [it will] allow the public to see that it was possible to do something with just fire and basically a stone ax and make it work. You don’t have to have all these modern tools that we see [now]. … It’s all modern machinery, but it’s based on what people [had] done thousands of years ago. We’re basically still doing the same thing. So to see one made out of wood, hopefully the public will enjoy that.”

The launch will cap off a day of programming Saturday at the Etowah Indian Mounds. Along with an introduction to birding hike from 9 to 11 a.m., the site also will feature Etowah Games Day highlighting American Indian games and their influence on modern offerings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.