Qajaq Journal Volume One. Letter from the Editor
Welcome to this inaugural issue of Qajaq. The increasing popularity of skin on frame kayaks and native style paddling techniques in the past few years has been astonishing. The ranks of those who have abandoned their wide recreation paddles in favor of a leaner and more elegant means of propulsion seem to be growing daily The creation of Qajaq USA, reflects this developing interest. Our primary goal as an organization is to promote the growth of Greenland style kayaking. We will seek to accomplish this through our web site and forums, by sponsoring and participating in kayak symposiums as well as supporting the publication of our member newsletter The Masik, and this Journal. Qajaq was conceived as venue for the publication of serious scholarship about northern native watercraft.
In my opinion, our tendency as enthusiasts has been to focus narrowly on the boats while neglecting the history and the larger cultural circumstances of their creation and use. We often miss the important fact that for northern natives the kayak and umiak existed as a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves. The remembrances related by Uyarasuk and Piugaattuk make it clear that hunting was the primary purpose these boats were built. In reading their accounts it is obvious that it was the animals and their behavior that determined the technique and choice of gear. I will try to include a native voice in every future issue of the journal in the belief that what will result is a deeper appreciation and understanding of the watercraft as well as the cultures that created them. Eugene Arima's article deals with the complex origins of the kayak in Asia and the Western Arctic. Speculating on the development of the kayak by analyzing the formal variations in early kayak models, he offers his overview of the archaeological evidence from the Bering Sea, Bring Strait region. Harvey Golden has provided the '"centerfold" West Greenland kayak line drawing and notes. I have contributed a bibliography on Gino Watkins and the Air Route Expeditions. Pavia Lumholt and Greg Stamer will walk you through the intricacies of the walrus pull. Finally, I have reprinted a short piece by Morten Porsild about the cottage industry of manufacturing kayak models in Greenland at the turn of the century.
The Arctic is a geographically vast place with a complex history. The development and use of kayaks and umiaks played a significant part in the story. While for the most part the focus of the journal will be on kayaks I will also on occasion include articles on the other forms of watercraft that were or are in use in the North. The often neglected umiak which was in use across the Arctic, the kayak-form canoes used by sub-arctic Indians, improvised floats and motorized freight canoes, to name but a few, are all deserving of study. In future issues of Qajaq I will seek to offer our readership and interesting mix of history, technique and ethnographic accounts that will cover the wide range of watercraft used and developed by northern peoples.
Producing this first issue of Qajaq was a collective effort and i would like to take this opportunity to thank a few of the individuals involved. First the boad members of Qajaq US who took in on faith that I could in fact put this publication together and voted to provide me with the funds to do so. All of the authors who generously contributed articles for this inaugural issue of Qajaq. Eugene Arima for lending his support, guidance and advice behind the scenes. Nelia Ponte for her technical skill with Quark and her infinite patience while I sorted out the visual look of the journal. And lastly Richard Nonas a good friend and paddling companion who was always ready to lend an ear as I worked my way through the more challenging moments.