Q is for Qajaq

Q is for Qajaq

‘Q is for Qajaq’ is a collaborative initiative to help inspire a renaissance of kayaking and kayak-building in Canada’s Arctic.

Led by polar adventurer Eric McNair-Landry, Students on Ice (SOI) launched a series of educational and outreach initiatives in 2015 to teach the craft of qajaq building, its history and importance within Arctic culture.

The Q is for Qajaq program continues in 2016 with an exciting new and expanded program including:

April 25-May 4, 2016: The building of 3 traditional Inuit qajaqs at the Canadian Canoe Museum 

May 5-20, 2016: The building of 3 traditional Inuit qajaqs at the Canadian Museum of Nature. We are excited to welcome students from Nunavut Sivuniksavut to learn the craft of qajaq building this year!

July 21-August 5, 2016: Paddled on SOI’s 2016 Arctic Expedition with youth from across Canada and around the world!

Following expedition the qajaqs will be donated to northern communities where they will continue to inspire qajaq building and paddling through museum exhibits and community workshops

The 2016 program has been made possible through partnerships with the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Canoe Museum, Nunavut Sivuniksavut and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.


Program success in 2015!

In the spring of 2015, nearly 15,000 visitors witnessed the live building of the qajaqs at the Canadian Museum of Nature and learned about this unique craft that has served as an integral and culturally significant vehicle for transportation, hunting, recreation and more. A long-time resident of Iqaluit and experienced qajaq builder and paddler, McNair-Landry illustrated what makes Inuit qajaqs unique, the important role of qajaqs as a bridge connecting people to nature and why a renaissance of qajaq building and paddling is so important and culturally relevant today.

“This live kayak-building exhibit impressed our visitors by allowing direct interaction with an expert craftsman and Arctic adventurer. Eric’s efforts showed the importance of kayaks as a part of Arctic culture inspired by the natural environment. The activity was real and relevant, which is important in telling the story of the Arctic – a place that many Canadians may never visit in person.”

– Meg Beckel, CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature


The qajaqs were taken on the 2015 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition where they became an integral part of the expedition’s education program. Students learned about the history of qajaqs in the north and had the opportunity to reassemble the qajaqs, paint and paddle the qajaqs in the Northwest Passage. To learn about the 2015 Arctic Expedition visit the Expedition microsite.

SOI would like to thank partners for the 2015 Q is for Qajaq program: Candian Museum of Nature, Canada Goose and Canadian Heritage.


2015 Media coverage

CBC TV – Our Ottawa
CBC Radio – Ottawa Morning
Nunatsiaq News
Ottawa Citizen


Eric McNair-Landry and Students on Ice came together on the 2014 Antarctic Expedition, where Eric shared his vision for a renaissance movement of kayaking and kayak building in Canada’s Arctic.

Growing up in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Eric developed a strong understanding and appreciation for the people and culture of the North. Combined with a passion for adventure and exploration, Eric and team (Dr. Kate Breen, Sarah McNair-Landry and Erik Boomer) set out on an expedition that combines history, culture and adventure – Expedition Q. The goal of this expedition was to help bring back kayaking and kayak building as a major part of the Inuit culture and way of life. The result was four hand-made Baffin style kayaks and a month-long journey crossing Baffin Island to share their journey and inspire local Inuit communities. The response was overwhelming!

As a polar education organization, Students on Ice has partnered with Eric to support this important initiative through educational outreach about the cultural significance of qajaqs (Inuit word for kayak) and to engage and inspire youth to become part of this renaissance movement.

This is but one initiative taking place in a growing movement to reintroduce qajaqs to Canada’s North. Other efforts include QAJAQTUAQ, the cultural revitalization project led by Moosa and Pitsula Akavak, based in Iqaluit.

Our ‘Q is for Qajaq’ project hopes to be instrumental in raising awareness and funds for other initiatives such as this. Together, we can help return the qajaq to Canada’s Arctic and enhance the cultural pride, craft, recreation and sustenance hunting that the qajaq provides.



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This website was made possible by a generous contribution from the Leacross Foundation.

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