Copper Inuit kayak removed safely from Edmonton basement
A traditional Inuit kayak that spent the last 50 years in an Edmonton basement is on its way back to Nunavut.
On Monday, the kayak was removed from the home of Stella and Walter Baydala with the help of Brendan Griebel, a researcher with the Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay.
The kayak was wrapped, eased through a small basement window and placed in a crate for shipping to Kugluktuk, Nunavut.
"Isn't it amazing?" Stella Baydala said. "I think it's really exciting that it's going to go back home."
The kayak was in the wood-panelled rumpus room when the Baydalas bought the house in 1967.
"We just knew it was a kayak, and it was in our rumpus room, and it looked good here and we were so busy," Stella Baydala said. "We were raising children."
After decades with the mysterious kayak in her basement, Baydala decided it should go to a museum or indigenous group.
Their daughter was able to track down Dr. Bruce Weir, the previous owner of the house, who told her the kayak at one time was on display at the old Hudson Bay Company store on Jasper Avenue in downtown Edmonton. Weir was able to convince the store manager to sell it to him.
"He was a collector of Inuit art," Baydala said.
The Baydalas's search led them to the Kitikmeot Heritage Society in Cambridge Bay.
Researcher Griebel believes the perfectly preserved kayak, made of caribou skin and driftwood, was built in Kugluktuk 60 years ago.
"To find a boat in this style is fairly rare," Griebel said. "This one's probably from the 1950s but that is still before the community of Kugluktuk was a settlement."
Elders in Kugluktuk believe they can identify the builder, who has since died, once they examine the kayak.
There are plans to display the kayak in Kugluktuk's newly-opened heritage and visitors' centre.