Made of materials from the environment, the kayak is a symbol of the cultural connection to both the surrounding land and water. Kayaks were traditionally made of a wooden frame stretched with sealskin or caribou hide depending on the region. Above the tree-line, the frame would have been built from scavenged wood and driftwood. Regardless of region of origin, the traditional skin-on-frame kayak is a sleek craft built primarily for hunting. The kayak was a vessel for hunting narwhale, seal, walrus, birds, caribou, fish, among other fauna. The hunter’s tools would have been attached to the deck of the kayak for ease of access.
Made of materials from the environment, the kayak is a symbol of the cultural connection to both the surrounding land and water. Kayaks were traditionally made of a wooden frame stretched with sealskin or caribou hide depending on the region. Above the tree-line, the frame would have been built from scavenged wood and driftwood. Regardless of region of origin, the traditional skin-on-frame kayak is a sleek craft built primarily for hunting. The kayak was a vessel for hunting narwhale, seal, walrus, birds, caribou, fish, among other fauna. The hunter’s tools would have been attached to the deck of the kayak for ease of access.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Kayak Frame

With its flat deck, deep bow and low stern, this East Hudson Bay kayak frame represents the construction style of the Eastern Canadian Arctic.

Photographer: Michael Cullen

982.42
© 2000, The Canadian Canoe Museum.


Traditional skin-on-frame kayaks were built with a wooden frame, lashed together with sealskin cord or caribou sinew. The skins were sewn together and attached using water-tight stitching of sinew thread. Building the kayak was often a community-oriented task: men would build the frame and women would prepare and stretch the skins across the frame.
Traditional skin-on-frame kayaks were built with a wooden frame, lashed together with sealskin cord or caribou sinew. The skins were sewn together and attached using water-tight stitching of sinew thread. Building the kayak was often a community-oriented task: men would build the frame and women would prepare and stretch the skins across the frame.

© 2002, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Archival photograph

Archival photograph of a kayak race, Port Burwell, Hudson Strait.

Hudson Bay Company

P1178
© Hudson Bay Company Archives


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Describe a traditional kayak, its materials, and its construction

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