Dugout canoe on display during Native American Heritage Month

The National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) is proud to partner with Toledo History Museum to display the “Wagush” Dugout Canoe. The canoe, on loan from Toledo History Museum’s collection, will be showcased in the museum’s lobby during the month of November in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month and the museum’s upcoming November 15 lecture featuring UW-Madison’s Professor of Archaeology Sissel Schroeder discussing the Dugout Canoes of Wisconsin.

“Dugout canoes are boats made from hollowed-out trees by Native Americans across North and South America,” shares Carrie Sowden, who oversees both the lecture series and NMGL’s temporary exhibit installations. “The Great Lakes were and are the homelands of many Indigenous and Native tribal nations, and we are honored to be able to highlight our museum’s hometown native American history by showcasing a canoe with Toledo roots.”

Information passed down with the canoe said “wagush” was a word in the Wyandot language that means “friend.” The word is painted on the side of the canoe.  But, some historians contend the word may have its roots in the language of the Chippewa or Ojibwe .  For more information about the history of canoe click here.

Originally donated to the Toledo Zoo by the Whitmore family in the 1940s and later moved into the Toledo History Museum’s collection, the “Wagush” dugout canoe is thought to have been purchased in the 1820s by Luthor Whitmore, Sr. however there is no record of who built the canoe or who sold it to him. The canoe will be on loan and displayed through November 30 so visitors to the National Museum of the Great Lakes can learn more about dugout canoes. The Museum is also encouraging individuals to register for NMGL’s free lecture Dugout Canoes of Wisconsin—featuring UW-Madison’s Professor of Archaeology Sissel Schroeder taking place November 15. For more information on the lecture and to register for it visit nmgl.org/events.