Qajaq Journal Volume Three. Letter from the Editor
I'm proud to present the readers of Qajaq Journal with this first English translation of Kajakmänner - Erzählungen Grönländischer Seehundsfänger. Kayak-Men is a compilation of first person accounts of life in Greenland in the middle of the nineteenth century. It's unfortunate that there is so little of this kind of material available to English readers. The truth is that in spite of the enormous library of literature that exists about the Arctic and its peoples very little is written form a Kalaallit or Inuit point of view. The majority of published accounts are those of whites who as administrators, missionaries or explorers found themselves living in the North. Their perspective on native life was from the outside looking in, their perceptions often tainted by personal or altruistic agendas, their writings produced for a foreign audience. In an exception to that rule these stories allow these native authors to speak to us directly, to tell us something about their lives. Kayakers relating tales of traveling and hunting, of survival and disaster allowing us to hear from the hunters themselves what life was like for them on the West Coast of Greenland a hundred and fifty years ago.
That these stories have survived is due in great measure to the enlightened efforts of the Dane, Hinrich Rink and his wife Signe. In 1858 Rink accepted the position of Royal Inspector for district of South Greenland. Early in his tenure he secured funding and established the first printing press in Greenland, the South Greenland Press. WIth the help of the Greenlanders Rasmus Berthelsen and Lars Möller the press began by publishing small tracts and histories, eventually producing the first book printing in Greenlandic, the famous Pok book. One of Rink's ambitions was to publish a journal in Greenlandic. So it followed that in January of 1861 the periodical Atuagagdliutit released its first number, containing articles culled from Danish publications, stories, articles, local news and personal accounts examples of which are presented here. Signe Rink is responsible for having these stories collated into book form. Her edited text was first published in Denmark in 1896 as Kajakmænd - Fortællinger af Grønlandske Sælhundeefangere. The translation presented here was produced using the German edition released the following year.
Qajaq USA and the Baidarka Historical Society provided the funding for this translation with George Dyson and the BHS generously providing a quarter of the cost incurred.
I would like to thank Roger MacGregor for his sensitive translation of this text. Roger, who is an author as well as translator, has published history of the Chestnut Canoe Company, When the Chestnut was in Flower (Plumsweep Press, 1999). It's a great read and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the beginnings of recreational canoeing in the U.S. and Canada. Roger is currently working on a book based on the life and work of Edward Tappan Adney.
A special note of thanks to Martin Nissen of Copenhagen for the invaluable assistance he provided in Denmark, as well as, Nelia Ponte, Eugene Arima, Harvey Golden for their contributions to this issue.