INUIT KAYAKS

Although traditional kayaking declined significantly in Greenland between the 1950s and 1980s, the traditions and skills have never disappeared and are now practiced with renewed interest as a means of learning about Inuit heritage. In order to ensure the continuity of kayaking, an organization called Qaannat Kattuffiat developed traditional kayaking into a sport during the mid-1980s. The premise of Qaannat Kattuffiat is that kayaking is an important and constitutive part of Inuit culture. The organization's position is that the physical process of building kayaks and learning the skills of how they are used is communicative of cultural knowledge which cannot be acquired any other way than practice and personal experience.

Qaannat Kattuffiat organizes a series of local clubs in many of the communities in West Greenland. The clubs offer space for people to learn kayak construction, as well as a community for training in traditional skills. Qaannat Kattuffiat also oversees an annual competition, which draws kayakers from all over Greenland. Events at the competition include a combination of rope exercises, harpoon throwing, rolling, and many different types of races. In the video to the right, Niels Thomassen (President of Qaannat Kattuffiat) describes the history of the organization, how it operates, and how he hopes it will develop in the future.

Greenland kayaking has also gained much interested internationally. Groups inspired by Qaannat Kattuffiat can be found in the United States and Japan, with others practicing and adapting the skills of Greenlandic kayaking around the world.

 

 

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