Indian Canoe-Maker recounts the story of Ku-de a Quileute Indian boy who lived some two hundred years ago in the village of Kenekomitt (now La Push), near the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula, in the state of Washington. It is the tale of a boy who refused too be bound by the conventions of his tribe, a whale-hunting, warlike people who believed in the spirit world -the world of the Thunderbird, the Lightening Fish, of Bayaq the Raven , and of the land of the dead where people walked with their legs crossed. In spite of their fears, Kid-de, Akil (his friend), Kayad (his uncle), and Haba, the old canoe-maker, set about to build the great canoe.
Watched and attached as they are by the wicked medicine man, who has cursed the great craft, Ku-de and the others manage, nevertheless, to finish and launch the great canoe. Meanwhile, the canoe-making is further complicated by the presence in the Quileute village of a captive Makah slave girl, daughter of the powerful chief of the fierce enemy tribe. And it is the Makah girl who puts the novel finishing touch on the great canoe. But it is also her presence that brings the Makah in the canoes to raid and burn the Quileute village and, by accident, save Ku-de and his friends from the danger presented to them and to the great canoe by their fellow tribesmen and the medicine man.
Though little is known of the actual past history or the customs of the Quileute, Indian Canoe-Maker presents an exciting and very probable account of these seal and whale-hunting Indians. The illustrations for Indian Canoe-Maker are by Barbara Beaudreau, a young artist of Santa-Fe, New Mexico.