Paddling with the ancestors, elders' perspectives on the construction and use of the caribou skin qajaq

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Charlebois, Shawn L.
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The Harvaqtuurmiut have used the caribou skin qajaq since time immemorial, its sleek bow and elegant design splitting the waves of inland waterways in an effort to harvest caribou, fish and birds. By refining and developing the qajaq over countless years, the Harvaqtuurmiut have developed a device which has allowed them to survive in a continually challenging environment. The geographic location of the Harvaqtuurmiut has led them to create an original qajaq style and shape, in turn making it a unique part of Baker Lake culture. This thesis will illustrate the historical and contemporary importance of the caribou skin qajaq to the Harvaqtuurmiut, as seen in the care, time and belief entailed in its creation and use. By focusing primarily on the oral historical accounts of Elders this report will show how the Baker Lake community uses traditional qajaq knowledge to maintain or reintroduce traditional cultural practices. By applying the concepts associated with qajaq construction and use, which combines the analysis of social, cultural and spiritual components, this project will illustrate the potential benefits to Inuit and Non-Inuit communities alike. More specifically, this thesis will be of value to Aboriginal and Inuit groups, agencies, bands and cultural centres interested in restoring traditional values and beliefs and in strengthening Aboriginal identity.