Okay, I know there is some comedy is watching middle-aged white people toss harpoons at styrofoam seals from kayaks. This is what my kayak pals and I were doing last weekend at the Traditional Paddlers Gathering in Lake Carlos State Park near Alexandria.
If we were actually seal hunters, we would be some seriously underfed people. Let’s just say our skill level is not that high. Speaking for myself now, this is after a significant amount of practice. Which does not make perfect, no matter what you’ve heard on that subject.
The weekend was given over to the traditional skills — paddling kayaks that many of us have made ourselves in the style of the northern native people, using paddles we’ve whacked out of two-by-fours in the native style, dressed in water-tight garments modeled on the native originals. At night we sat around and watched movies demonstrating how the originators of these tools actually used them. Proficiently, as you would expect. Making them somewhat different from us.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering about the appeal of all this. It has a lot to do with the simple, ingenious techniques that enable us to make these tools for ourselves. We live in a world full of products, and are generally pushed to be consumers. This is an area where you can make the things you want, and — to my mind at least — have them perform better in certain respects than the versions you might otherwise buy.
The native people were self-reliant. Mostly we are not. But in this small area we get a taste of that satisfaction.
(Photo courtesy Christopher Crowhurst.)