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Qajaq Audio Glossary
Qajaq / Boat?
A Qajaq is Not A Boat?
To a Greenlander a qajaq is a sacred object. If it wasn't for the qajaq, the Greenlanders would not have been able to survive. As such a qajaq holds a special place in the spirit, heart and mind of Greenlanders and this relationship is often not understood by those outside of Greenland. Because of this special relationship it is considered demeaning to the qajaq by calling it a "boat". John Petersen explains:
"Qajaq is qajaq, or kayak in your language, it is definitely not a boat in our terminology. For us boat is a vessel propelled by oars and has no cockpit, that is as simple as that. On land, when you are hunting, you use your legs to move around. You can not do that on water. To be able to walk on the water, hunters had to invent a new kind of an extension to their limbs, that made you amphibious. This device was called qajaq, you could now move around on the water, without using too much energy, just propelled by your arms.
Calling a qajaq a boat is offensive in Greenland, because we are trying to preserve a culture almost lost. I know that many members of QajaqUSA call their SOFs boats, even though it is replicas of old hunting qajaq's, you should not do that, or at least when Greenlanders are present.
When QajaqUSA became a member of Qaannat Kattuffiat, it was with preservation in mind. So, QajaqUSA: Please preserve the name also, or in your language kayak. Not boat. Because you are QajaqUSA and not boatUSA".
-- John Petersen
Qaannat Kattuffiat Logo
The Qaannat Kattuffiatt logo owes its distinctive shape to the avataq, the inflated seal-skin float that is used for hunting. If you look closely, you can see a second avataq in the logo artwork, lashed in its normal position just aft of the kayaker.
Qaannat Kattuffiat was instrumental in the kayaking renaissance in Greenland. Not very long ago the ancient Greenlandic kayaking skills were in serious danger of being lost forever. In fact many of the techniques were lost but to one man, Manasse Mathaeussen, the dean of Greenland kayaking.
Although in his seventies, Manasse was able to teach and amazingly, still perform the full repertoire of ancient maneuvers. Thankfully the club was able to bring together the veteran seal catchers with an eager band of students and the knowledge was passed on to a new generation.
Today, many West Greenland towns sport their own affiliated kayak club and promote the ancient skills of kayak building and capsize recovery as well as fostering self-respect, pride of their ancestors and awareness of Greenland's cultural contributions to the world.
What's In A Name?
The word "qaannat" is the plural of qajaq (kayaks) and Kattuffiat means "club or organization". Therefore the term Qaannat Kattuffiat literally means the kayaks' club