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HomeLetter from Editor - Vol 2

Letter from the Editor - Vol 2.

Qajaq Journal Volume Two. Letter from the Editor

Sadly this past year saw the passing of John Heath. John was a scholar, researcher and proponent of native style kayaking and takes his place in the long roster of non-professionals who have furthered the study of native watercraft. It was not so long ago that if you were a recreational kayaker living in the US and found yourself wanting to learn more about Northern Native kayaking all roads seemingly led to John. As the articles that follow will attest, very early on he saw the virtue and understood the value of native kayaks and paddling techniques and preached for their adoption by American and European recreational paddlers. A regular contributor to kayaking magazines and frequent presenter at kayaking events, he was easy to approach, ever ready to chat or answer a question on some arcane bit of kayaking lore and always gracious to a fault. In his articles both scholarly and popular, through his video tapes or as a speaker at symposium, he would emphasize again and again, that above all, we must respect and continually acknowledge the debt we owe to the peoples who created the kayak and developed the skills to use it. Expressing his faith in the technical superiority of the native kayak he stated, "...that replicas of traditional kayaks, authentic except for the skin, could supplement existing recreational kayaks with craft which would not change with the whims of fashion, thus reminding an owner that he, not the kayak, should be improved". Forty-five years ago John was a lone voice in the recreational kayaking wilderness. If things have changed over the course of those years, and it would seem they have, we all owe some measure of thanks to John for his insight, efforts and persistence.


John was a friend and generous mentor to many of us. For those of us who knew him it was especially sad that he did not live long enough to have seen the publication of Eastern Arctic Kayaks. He will be missed. We offer our sincere condolences to his wife Jessie Heath and his son David.


I would like to offer my thanks to Jessie for granting her permission to reprint two of John's early articles in this volume of Qajaq, as well as his previously unpublished piece on Yupik kayaks.


Also included through the kind generosity of H.C. Petersen is his article Kayak Sports and Games. I present it here in a version that is much closer to the originally published form with the addition of photographs and textual corrections to the translation provided by Mr. Petersen through the kind assistance of Martin Nissen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Though this issue is late to press, the next volume is already taking shape. The contents of this forthcoming special double issue will be a collection of first person hunting/kayaking narratives from 19th century Greenland. These stories, written by Greenlanders for Greenlanders will offer the readership a rare glimpse into that world.


I would also like to thank Nelia Ponte, Eugene Arima, Harvey Golden, Greg Stamer, Richard Nonas, Turner Wilson, Willard Bigelow and Cheri Perry for their assistance and contributions in the production of this issue.




Vernon Doucette

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