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October 24, 2006 > Building tule boats

Building tule boats

by Helen Zou

Tall, deceptively strong sedge plants have been and still are bountiful along the marshes and wetlands of California. Called tule, each stalk has hundreds of small foamy air pockets that make it naturally buoyant in water and a perfect material to use to navigate inland waterways. A tule boat is a crescent shaped boat similar to a canoe made up entirely of big bundles of tule. This plant was an easy and accessible resource for Native Americans to use for baskets, bowls, mats, clothing and boats.

The predominant Indian tribes who utilized tule boats in California were the Yokut, Pomo, and Ohlones. These tribes used the tule boat as a means of transportation for small distances across lakes and rivers and for fishing. Roughly 16 feet long, these craft could include a small fire for cooking and even holes cut in the middle for easier fishing.

Building a tule boat was relatively simple. Tule would be gathered into several large bundles and bound together with rope. The bundles were then conjoined at the ends to form the tule boat.

This Saturday, Coyote Hills Regional Park is offering the public a chance to build their own tule boats and paddle them around Quarry Lakes. This interactive event gives the opportunity to have fun, and relive an experience that was a part local Native American life. "It's important to understand and relate to the Native Americans who used to live here," said Dino Labiste who organizes and runs the project.

Helping to build an authentic Native American boat will allow participants to travel back in time and walk in the footsteps of the Native Americans who used to reside in the Bay Area.

For more information visit or call (510) 636-1684.

Tule Boat Construction
Saturday, Oct. 28
9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Quarry Lakes
2100 Isherwood Way, Fremont
(510) 636-1684
16 years old and up

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