Native American languages
Native American culture
Qajaq 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 qajaq is spelled many different ways including qayaq, kayaq, and kayak.
Plural forms include qajat and qayat, although the anglicized plural "kayaks" is most common these days.
A qajaq is similar in appearance to a covered canoe. The qajaq 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 qajaqs of different tribes had different styles and
designs, and Arctic Native people could usually tell where someone came from by the shape of his qajaq. In some communities, each
hunter had his own qajaq, which was designed for only one paddler (with one hole in the cover.) Other communities used larger
qajaqs with multiple holes, and two or three men would go hunting as a team. In most Arctic cultures, the qajaq 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 cultures
Arctic indigenous peoples
Here are links to more Internet resources about qajaq:
Kayaks or Qayat
Qajaqs and Canoes
And here are a few good books about qajaqs:
Qajaq: 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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