The remarkably tough and pliable rootlets of white spruce, about the size of a quill, when barked, split, and suppled in water, are used by Indians to stitch together the bark plates of their birch canoes, the seams being smeared with the resin that exudes from the tree; also for sewing up bark tents, and utensils that will hold water. The finely divided roots are called by northern Indians watab or watape.
Twine and stout cords are also made of this material, strands for fish-nets being sometimes made as Ciuch as fifty yards in length. The old-time Indians used to say that bark cords were better than hemp ropes, as they did not rot so quickly from alternate wetting and drying, nor were they so harsh and kinky, but, when damped, became as sup* pie as leather. "Our bast cords," they said, "are always rather greasy in the water, and slip more easily through our hands. Nor do they cut the skin< like 5-our ropes, when anything has to be pulled. Lastly, they feel rather warmer in winter".
The fibers of tamarack roots, and of hemlock, cedar, and Cottonwood, are similarly used. Dan Beard says: "I have pulled up the young tamarack trees from where they grew in a cranberry 'mash' and used the long, cord-like roots for twine with which to tie up bundles. So pliable are these water-soaked roots that you can tie them in a knot with almost the same facility that you can your shoestring. . . . Each section of the country has its own peculiar vegetable fiber which was known to the ancient red men and used by them for the purposes named. . . . Dig up the trailing roots of young firs or other saplings suitable for your use, test them and see if they can be twisted into cordage stout enough for your purpose. Coil the green roots and bury them under a heap of hot ashes from your camp-fire, and there allow them to steam in their own sap for an hour, then take them out, split them into halves and quarters, and soak them in water until they are pliable enough to braid into twine or twist into -withes. Don't gather roots over one and one-half inches thick for this purpose".
The long, tough rootstocks of sedge or saw-grass are much used by our Indians as substitutes for twine. Baskets made of them are the strongest, most durable and costliest of all the ingenious products of the aboriginal basket-maker. The fiber is strongest when well moistened. The stringy roots of the catgut or devil's shoe-string (Cracca or Tephrosia), called also goat's rue or hoary pea, are tough and flexible.
Grapevine rope is made in a manner similar to bark rope. The American wistaria (Kraunhia fru-tcscens) is so tenacious and supple that it was formerly used along the lower Mississippi for boats' cables; it can also be knotted with ease.