Q is for Qajaq

Polar Adventurer Eric McNair-Landry Delivers Interactive Kayak Building Exhibit

© Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

© Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

Eric McNair-Landry grew up in Iqaluit, Nunavut where dog sledding, kiteskiing, and cold weather survival skills were learned at an early age. His adventures have taken him across the Northwest Passage, to the Gobi Desert, twice to the South Pole, and across the Greenland Icecap six times. Eric has been nominated for National Geographic’s Adventurer of the Year Award and received the Outdoor Idol Award in 2007. Eric also took part in the 1,000 km ‘Expedition Q’ journey across Baffin Island in 2013 using 4 qajaqs built by his team with students in Iqaluit, Nunavut. 

From April 25th to May 3rd, Eric will be delivering an interactive exhibit, Q is for Qajaq, in the Living Traditions gallery at the Canadian Canoe Museum! 

Visitors can engage in this educational, interactive exhibit as Eric and a team of craftspeople build traditional Baffin-design qajaqs. Entry is included with regular museum admission. After his time at the Canadian Canoe Museum, Eric will then travel to the Museum of Nature in Ottawa where he will continue the exhibit from May 5th to 20th.

© Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

© Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

© Martin Lipman/ Students on Ice

© Martin Lipman/ Students on Ice

Q is for Qajaq is a collaborative project that aims to inspire qajaq (Inuktitut for kayak) building and paddling in Canada’s Arctic. The completed qajaqs will be taken on this summer’s Students on Ice Arctic Expedition and paddled by youth from Canada and around the world. Following the expedition, the qajaqs will continue to inspire through community workshops and outreach initiatives.

© Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

© Lee Narraway / Students on Ice

Traditional qajaq building and paddling has largely disappeared from the Canadian High Arctic. Despite this, the qajaq still appears prominently in Inuit art, folklore, oral history and as a symbol of Inuit ingenuity. Inuit people have a large vocabulary dedicated to qajaqs—their construction, their use and their maintenance. Greenland, however, has seen a recent surge in traditional qajaq building and paddling. McNair-Landry and his team hope to help integrate qajaq knowledge into school curricula in Canada’s North and to return the qajaq to its integral role in competitions, recreation, art, fishing and hunting. 

Q is for Qajaq is a Students on Ice Foundation initiative made possible through partnerships with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian Canoe Museum, Nunavut Sivuniksavut and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.