Indigenous American languages * Native cultures * Native American heritage

Qayaq (Qayaqs)

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.

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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 kayaks today.


Here are links to our webpages about the Arctic tribes and languages:

 Alutiiq
 Inuit
 Yupik
 Eskimo-Aleut language
 Alaska Native groups
 Arctic people

Here are links to more Internet resources about qayaq:
 Kayaks or Qayat
 Qayaqs and Canoes
 Wikipedia: Qayaq
 Native kayaks

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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