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The Qayaq Co-Op uses cutting edge technology to produce neo traditional qayaqs (kayaks), canoes and skin boats.

April 15, 2013, Anchorage, Alaska

Indigenunity is launching a kickstarter fundraising campaign for the Qayaq Co-Op is a start-up in Anchorage, Alaska, harnessing the genius of traditional Native craftsmanship and combining it with digital fabrication technology to produce neo-traditional qayaqs. The project will demonstrate that mass customization manufacturing of the qayaq will support the preservation of traditional boat building knowledge and use. The Qayaq Co-Op will serve as an example for knowledge-based economic development in Anchorage and throughout the state. David Karabelnikoff, a co-founder of the Qayaq Co-Op, explained his broader vision for knowledge-based economic development for Alaska at the 2013 TEDx Anchorage.

The goals of the project are to:

  • Develop a culturally relevant social enterprise for workforce development training and digital fabrication training for at-risk youth, especially Alaska Native youth.

  • Demonstrate a positive image of Alaska Native cultures to the broader community.  

  • Jumpstart the development of a maker space in Anchorage this spring

    • Digital manufacturing tools and space for prototyping and fabrication

    • Support for building community-based businesses


Karabelnikoff (Aleut/Athabaskan) is spearheading Qayaq Co-Op. The 31-year-old says the Qayaq Co-Op is about more than business. “Aleuts are Survivors. We are descended from one of the longest lasting civilizations on the planet, spanning thousands of years. In less than 50 years the population went from 20,000 to 2,000. Now we stand in the doorway between oblivion and revitalization; at times I do feel that the place where I come from doesn't exist any more. Then I hear the call from the future generations and answer it with the only prayer I know; one to be guided by my ancestors,” Karabelnikoff says.


The Qayaq Co-Op will help preserve traditional Alaska Native knowledge and spur homegrown economic development throughout Alaska. Prototyping the qayaq will serve as an interactive workshop for participants to indigenize maker technology. Participants will learn to use 3D printers, CNC machines and laser cutters. Weekly open house sessions will be held to gain community interest and support for the Qayaq Co-Op and the broader maker movement. This initial success will be leveraged to raise funds to acquire supportive housing and to purchase digital manufacturing equipment and set up the qayaq co-op for production.  “This program will empower Alaska Natives by building upon our shared cultural and technological background with the qayaq,” Karabelnikoff says.

Qayaq Co-Op is considering a location in the Mountain View neighborhood of Anchorage, one of the most diverse communities in Anchorage, Alaska's biggest Native village. The kickstarter campaign aims to raise well beyond their $25,000 pledge and are offering over $100,000 in awards which include prints made by Alaska Native artists at $15 to $10,000 for a traditional hand made Qayaq. Every person who donates through kickstarter will receive a gift. The kickstarter campaign begins the week of April 15th and runs through May 10th. A commencement is planned for 6pm on April 16th 2013 at REI 1200 W Northern Lights Blvd, Anchorage, Alaska.

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