WATCH FROM HOME: Caribou Kayak

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Michael Mitchell
color, 49 min, 2005

Also available on DVD and DSL

Otto Apsaktaun and Gino Akka are the last Inuit elders who know the secrets of making a unique Canadian boat built for the Arctic – the Netsilingmeot caribou-hunting kayak. With features like a wide cockpit and long, narrow shape, the kayaks were designed to enhance the speed and ease of hunting caribou, since hunters have little time once caribou are spotted in the water.

In the summer of 2002, the elders invited the youth of their hamlet of Kugaaruk and a couple of southerners to join them at a remote tundra camp on Barrow Lake. Using a combination of traditional and modern techniques and materials, the group work ten twelve-hour days on the kayak construction. They also hunt, cook, play music, and teach the children Inuit traditions like the art of throat singing. While completing a pair of highly-crafted, beautiful kayaks, the elders also transmit and preserve their vanishing Inuit culture.

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