A Journey To What Matters and ASCA Partnership- ARTShops 2016 Constructing Traditional Kayaks

Project: ARTShops 2016 Constructing Traditional Kayaks
Alaska State Council on the Arts Partnership
Written by: Cheri Simeonoff, ARTShop Participant

The ARTShops program is a collaboration between the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and The CIRI Foundation’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Arts and Culture grant program. Established in 2016, ARTShops support emerging Alaska Native arts leaders to develop their skills in leading community-based arts programs.

Traditional qayat (kayaks) were once common on Kodiak Island and the surrounding regions. However, today you will find only a few being used regularly, one is at Alfred Naumoff’s fish camp and the rest on Kodiak are on display or in museums. They are a novelty. Our goal is to change this. By creating a traditional kayak from gathering wood off the beaches it shows we can still make kayaks at home.

What we learned was this is hard work. It takes knowing where, when, how and what to do with the materials once it has been gathered. Alfred Naumoff has been doing this for over 30 years. He learned from elders, Larry Matfay and others, when he was young and when it was not popular. His knowledge is now very important to our relearning about these traditional practices.

At the Akhiok Kids camp we gathered wood for the bow piece in 2016 and started shaping it at the camp in 2017. We also started processing the deck beams and other parts during this time. We were able to get all the parts roughed out by hand and stored to be cured over the winter in Akhiok. This was one of the things Alfred taught us that it takes time to make a traditional kayak frame because we have to know how the wood will react as it cures, dries out, over the year. Today it seems we are always in such a rush to complete projects and slowing down and learning about the traditional ways reminds us that in making things traditionally, like a kayak takes time.

Thanks to The CIRI Foundation’s support we are able to carry this knowledge forward by showing and sharing the importance of slowing down and gathering materials traditionally is just as important as a finished product.