Qajaq (kayak, as it is known in English) was used for overseas hunting and daily transportation. It is a manboat made of sealskin and driftwood with a paddle. Today, most hunters have motorboats, so the traditional use of qajaq has become minimal. Today, qajaq is more known as leisure activity and sport for non-hunters. Qajaq is used as one of the most important parts of the hunting culture in North Greenland. Qaannat Kattuffiat (Greenland Kayak Federation) was founded in 1985.
“Then, in about 1920, the sea temperature along the coast of Greenland became warmer. Kayak hunting became less important, and fishing in power boats became more important. A whole generation grew up with almost no knowledge of kayaking.
Qajaannat Kattuffiat is dedicated to keep the traditional kayaking skills alive. These skills include rolling, paddling techniques, kayak building, tuilik making and other aspects of the Greenland qajaq culture.
In 1983, three ancient Greenland kayaks from the Netherlands were loaned to the Museum of Greenland at Nuuk. Some young Greenlanders saw these on exhibit and were impressed that their ancestors of 1600 to 1700 had such sleek craft and the skill to use them. These young men then decided to form a club in order to preserve their kayaking heritage. They called it the QAJAQ Club, and soon tee shirts began to appear with the slogan “QAJAQ-ATOQQILERPARPUT” (Kayak-we are starting to use it again). From the beginning in 1984, the club had reached a membership of 1,000 by late 1985.
The club enlisted the aid of veteran kayakers to teach them how to build and use kayaks.” – John Heath (late kayak historian who helped with the creation of Qajaq USA). www.qaqusa.org
Qaannat Kattuffiat Qajaq holds regular training camps where this knowledge is taught and practiced, as well as an annual championship (QU – Qaannamik Unammersuarneq) is held every year for juniors, seniors and oldboys. Today there are approximately 10 local Greenland qajaq clubs affiliated with Qaannat Kattuffiat.
It was close to disappearing, but enthusiasts as Manasseh Mathæussen with his wife Augustine Mathæussen kept the tradition alive.