The first Europeans that came to the island homelands of the Unangax people marveled at the perfection of these vessels and the incredible skill of the Unangax paddlers. Journal accounts from the mid 1700s and 1800s describe the iqyax in detail, and tell of the super-human strength and agility of the hunters who paddled them in the stormy Bering Sea and north Pacific.
It's a good thing that those early explorers wrote their accounts down because within a short period the knowledge of how to build these amazing vessels would all but disappear, forced out of the collective memory by the disrupting affects of the invading cultures of Russia and later, the United States. The passing of that amazing technology from one generation to the next which had gone on for thousands of years suddenly stopped.
In the late 1980s when the Unangax community began looking for the way back to the lost iqyax technology, we had no knowledge bearers to turn to. We had to search out the details from the early Russian-era journal accounts and from the secrets held within the ancient vessels themselves, now stored in museums around the world.
The traditional skin boat renaissance in Alaska has come a long way since we began our pursuits in 1993. The iqyax has moved from a place of myth and mystery to a place of relevance and real-ness in the minds of modern Unangax people. These days it's not uncommon to see a paddler in a traditional iqyax out on the Bering Sea during fair weather!
The Make Access Iqyax Apprenticeships project was conceived to seize this moment and take advantage of the gains we've made over all these years.
Make Access is a full immersion course that aims to inspire a new generation of master builders who will then be encouraged to share their expertise with their communities. We're here to build tradition bearers.
But we really need your help. This is a labor of passion, and a community project in the truest sense. Please be part of this community and help us launch this fun and meaningful program.
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