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Qajaq USA

Qajaq USA is a nonprofit membership organization that is officially recognized by Qaannat Kattuffiat (The Greenland Kayaking Association). Qajaq USA is committed to supporting Qaannat Kattuffiat and their efforts to preserve, study and promote the traditions and techniques of Greenland kayaking while seeking to further the appreciation and development of Greenland-style kayaking in the United States

Who we are

Qajaq USA is the American Chapter of Qaannat Kattuffiat—the Greenland Kayak Association. We are a small, passionate group of volunteers. We average approximately 250 paying members and have members world-wide. Qajaq USA is one of only three affiliated "qajaq" clubs outside of Greenland (the others are Qajaq Copenhagen and Qajaq Japan). There are about 25 qajaq clubs scattered among the small villages along the coast of West Greenland (and one in East Greenland). These clubs teach kayak building and pass along skills, and are a major impetus in keeping the local kayaking traditions alive.

We are proud to have had the late kayak historian John Heath as our first honorary member. John was a mentor and friend to many of us who founded Qajaq USA. Please read our Tribute to John Heath in the Summer 2003 Masik newsletter.

To stay current on what's happening in Qajaq USA, please subscribe to our Masik newsletter.

Join Qajaq USA

Qajaq USA is comprised of volunteers, so your contribution goes entirely to help fund its mission. This includes the publication of our high-quality printed Qajaq Journal, translation costs for historical documents (some of which have never been printed in English before), funding this website and the forums, costs of organizing and holding events, and purchasing gear to be used at events. We recently purchased eight tuillit (plural of tuilik), four aquilisaq (short skirts), three avataq, two harpoons, three SOF (skin-on-frame kayaks) and six paddles, for use at Qajaq USA events. Also, in striving to keep Greenland the center of Greenland kayaking and to promote "learning from the source," we have sponsored prominent Greenland kayakers and officials to visit the United States. This includes past-president Kaleraq and Lone Bech, Maligiaq Padilla, Kamp Absalonsen (former main competition judge), Adam Hansen and John Petersen.

Qajaq USA Bylaws

Membership Questions

If you have any questions about Qajaq USA membership, please contact our membership coordinator. As a paid member you will receive the latest printed copy of the Qajaq Journal. Members are also subscribed to the Qajaq USA News Mailing List. This e-mail list will keep you informed of new editions of our electronic newsletter, the Masik, as well as other interesting developments. You may change your mailing list options or unsubscribe at any time.

Our History

Qajaq USA would not exist but for a renaissance of native kayaking skills and techniques that occurred within West Greenland in the 1980s. Although many people were influential to these developments, space permits the mention of only a few and we apologize to those whose name goes unmentioned. Among the most influential was seal catcher and kayak demonstrator Manasse Mathaeussen, though well into his seventies at the time, he was instrumental in keeping many East and West Greenland techniques alive by passing his skills on to a new generation of Greenland kayakers. Without his energy and efforts, the knowledge of many kayaking skills might well have perished. Likewise, H.C. Petersen’s writings, scholarship and interviews with an aging generation of kayak hunters saved much that might otherwise have been lost. Kaleraq Bech, the president of Qaannat Kattuffiat for many years, was among the young Greenlanders who were greatly moved by an exhibit of three old Greenland kayaks on loan from the Netherlands to West Greenland in 1984. Acting upon their feelings they went on to create Qaannat Kattuffiat in order to preserve and promote Greenland’s kayak traditions and to make sure that this knowledge survived to be passed on to future generations of Greenlanders. Finally, John Heath, who by reporting on Qaannat Kattuffiat, as well as writing and lecturing about Greenland technique, proved instrumental in effecting the growth of Greenland-style kayaking outside of Greenland. John’s videotapes of Greenlanders performing traditional maneuvers have inspired a great many kayakers.

A pivotal moment for the development of Greenland kayaking in America occurred in 1998 when Greenland champion Maligiaq Padilla, sponsored by John Heath, embarked on a tour of the United States and Canada. Maligiaq started his tour at the Delmarva Retreat in Lewes, Delaware, bringing with him a sealskin kayak and a sealskin tuilik (full kayak jacket). The following year Kaleraq and his wife, Lone, visited Delmarva. Kaleraq was deeply moved to see scores of Greenland paddles on the water so far from his homeland, and announced before returning to Greenland that foreigners would, for the first time, be permitted to compete in the annual Greenland kayak championship.

In August 2000, Cindy Cole, Harvey Golden and Greg Stamer were among the first Americans who traveled to compete in the first “open” Greenland National Championship. During the competition, Kaleraq invited Greg to speak at a Qaannat Kattuffiat board meeting concerning the state of Greenland-style kayaking in the United States and the possibility of creating an American paddling organization affiliated with the Qaannat Kattuffiat. The board was encouraged to hear news of growing outside interest in Greenland kayaking and a long discussion ensued. Later that summer Qaannat Kattuffiat approved the creation of an American chapter, thus paving the way for the formation of Qajaq USA.

In 2001 the Greenland kayak forum was launched, and in 2002 Qajaq USA was incorporated as a non-profit organization and began accepting its first members later that spring.

Qajaq USA Staff, Board Members and Teams

Get to know the team behind Qajaq USA. Please contact us and let us know your ideas.

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