SULPHUR, OKLAHOMA — Dugout Canoes: Paddling through the Americas, a landmark exhibition hosted at the Chickasaw Cultural Center (CCC) will extend its stay to one full year until Sept. 27, 2015, officials announced.
Dugout Canoes was scheduled to end its appearance at the CCC May 6, but has been so popular it will remain at the center about five more months. It is on loan from the state of Florida.
Related: Ancient Canoe Exhibit Inspires Thousands at Chickasaw Cultural Center
Thousands of people have visited the exhibit and thousands more are expected to enjoy it.
In 2000, a group of high school students from Gainesville, Florida, discovered what is believed to be the largest treasure trove of ancient dugout canoes ever found. Crafted by the skilled hands of American Indians hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of years ago, they served the nation’s indigenous people in a multitude of ways. Experts estimate the ages of some of the canoes at between 500 to 5,000 years old.
Experts look upon the dugout canoe as the proverbial pickup truck of its day. They transported people to distant locations, acted as a vessel to establish trading and exploration of worlds outside tribal boundaries and carried huge loads of fur and other trade goods to market.
On display in the exhibit is a pine dugout canoe that is hundreds of years old. Tools to make the impressive vehicles – some dating to 600 A.D. – are also on display. Chickasaw Cultural Center authorities help guide the visitor through the process of felling a single tree, working weeks to burn, carve and scrap the interior and then finish the vessel so it was spacious and seaworthy.
Unfortunately, the high school class who discovered them also discovered many of the intact canoes could not be uprooted from their mud-caked murky graves. To extract them would mean their destruction. Most of the 101 canoes found remain where they were discovered in Newnans Lake. There, they are protected by centuries of silt, mud and freshwater.
However, remnants of many canoes removed from Newnans Lake are displayed at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. Patrons are urged to touch them, examine the texture and be awe-struck at how much could be accomplished by Native Americans using only primitive tools — some dugouts were fully constructed with stones before tribes traded for metal tools with Europeans.