Indigenous American languages
Native American heritage
Qayaq is the name of the traditional sealskin hunting boat of the Arctic Eskimo tribes (particularly the Inuit, the Yup'ik, and
the Alutiiq.) In some Arctic tribes the same kind of boat is known as a
baidarka instead, which comes from a word for "boat"
in an indigenous Siberian language. The word qayaq is spelled many different ways including qajak, qayak, kayaq, and kayak.
Plural forms include qajat and qayat, although the anglicized plural "kayaks" is most common these days.
A qayaq is similar in appearance to a covered canoe. The qayaq is made from a wooden or whalebone frame with a sealskin cover
stretched over it, and is propelled and steered with a wooden paddle. The qayaqs of different tribes had different styles and
designs, and Arctic Native people could usually tell where someone came from by the shape of his qayaq. In some communities, each
hunter had his own qayaq, which was designed for only one paddler (with one hole in the cover.) Other communities used larger
qayaqs with multiple holes, and two or three men would go hunting as a team. In most Arctic cultures, the qayaq was specifically a boat
for men. Women were not even allowed to touch them in some religious traditions. When women traveled by sea, they usually used
larger open-top canoes like the Inuit umiaq. In other communities, this rule was less important, and Native women can be seen paddling
Here are links to our webpages about the Arctic tribes and languages:
Alaska Native groups
Here are links to more Internet resources about qayaq:
Kayaks or Qayat
Qayaqs and Canoes
And here are a few good books about qayaqs:
Qayaq: Kayaks of Alaska & Siberia
Qayaqs and Canoes: Native Ways of Knowing
Building the Greenland Kayak
The Aleutian Kayak: Origins, Construction, and Use of the Traditional Seagoing Baidarka
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