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The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing [Inuktitut Version]

Betty Kobayashi Issenman, McCord Museum

Voir le circuit

Introduction:

Betty Kobayashi Issenman, McCord Museum, 2007

The fur and skin clothing of the Inuit is a key factor in ensuring their survival in the northernmost reaches of the globe. By "survival" we mean a cultural and spiritual, as well as physical, continuance with the ancestors. Its functional excellence and aesthetic properties make Inuit clothing a remarkable legacy to the human family. In the words of Inuit Elder, Mike Angutituak of Kangiqliniq (Rankin Inlet, Nunavut), "Our ancestors survived on the land and the sea, depending only on animals. It was not always easy for them, but they survived through many dangerous journeys and bitterly cold winters. They not only survived for themselves, they also survived for the future."

The Inuit world is intercontinental. The over 155,000 persons who call themselves "Inuit" - their word for people - live in four circumpolar countries: Russia (Chukotka), USA (Alaska), Canada and Kalaallit Nunaat, the ancient and modern name for Greenland. The rich, complex and sophisticated culture of the Inuit has endured in Arctic Canada for over four thousand years. It has survived in one of the world's harshest climates while remaining in ecological and spiritual harmony with the environment.

Inuit men and women shoulder together the responsibilities for food, clothing, shelter, child-rearing and emotional sustenance. They carry forward the traditions of clothing production and sewing techniques handed down from generation to generation over thousands of years. By making and wearing skin clothing, the Inuit celebrate their accomplishments, show pride in being a part of a unique, vibrant culture and affirm their lasting connection to the natural and spiritual worlds of their ancestors.

The McCord Museum collection of objects and photographs illustrating the Inuit art of sewing was gathered and donated by anthropologists, explorers, collectors, photographers and other institutions from the 19th century to the present. As we examine this luxurious clothing and the finely wrought tools of production, we open a door to an appreciation of Inuit culture as a whole.


M983.184
© Musée McCord
Amauti
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Surra Baron
1979, 20e siècle
44 x 192 cm
Don de Mr. Ian Lindsay
M983.184
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

FROM EARTH, SEA AND SKY

The amauti, the parka worn by Inuit women, is perhaps the world's most unique garment. From birth until about two years of age, the child nestles against the mother's back in the amaut, the built-in baby pouch just below the hood. The complex pattern of intricately assembled pieces is designed to create a large, comfortable pouch for the baby, as well as voluminous shoulders so that the mother can bring the child from back to front for breast-feeding or for eliminatory functions without exposure to the elements. The hide belt fastened at centre front goes around the body and under the amaut to hold the child secure.

The chest decoration of beadwork demonstrates the traditional placement of light and dark colours. The wide, harp seal band bordering the front and back flaps testifies to the artistry and skill of the Inuit seamstress.

Quoi:

In spring and summer the amauti is worn single-layered, with fur to the inside. In winter, if necessary, a second garment with fur to the outside is worn over the first, making mother and child completely comfortable in the freezing temperatures of the Arctic.

Où:

This amauti comes from Kangiqsualujjuaq in Nunavik (Arctic Quebec), at the juncture of the Rivière George and the coast of Ungava Bay.

Quand:

The amauti was purchased by Mr. Ian Lindsay at La Fédération des Coopératives du Nouveau-Québec, Montreal. He was advised that it had been made around 1979.

Qui:

The artisans who fashioned the amauti are Surra Baron, Surra Annanack and Claire Etook of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik. The beadwork was made by Ayanaylitok of Salluit (Sugluk), Nunavik.

ME966X.125.2
© Musée McCord
Pantalon
Arctique central
Inuit: Inuinnaq
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
71 x 132 cm
ME966X.125.2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the Arctic fur trousers are worn by men and women, although today more and more Inuit wear pants made of woven materials. Traditionally, men wore two layers of fur trousers in winter; women wore one since they did not usually go on long hunting forays in deepest cold. Even now, if planning a trip in winter, men will pack an extra set of furs.

Combination pants (atartaq), sometimes referred to as hose or pantaloons, are no longer made and rarely found in museum collections. In some communities they were seldom worn by men and only by women or children. Women's trousers with feet were discovered in 1981 at the Utqiagvit Archeological Site, Alaska, which archaeologists date at circa 1530 CE.

Quoi:

These pantaloons with the fur to the outside are made of lightweight, glossy, deep brown caribou fur harvested at the end of summer and sewn with sinew. A median seam goes down the front, while the seat is pieced for fullness. The white fur (pukiq) insertions at thigh, ankle and foot echo the markings of the caribou.

Où:

Combination pants were most often worn in the Western Arctic. According to Dr. Asen Balickci, an anthropologist who examined the trousers in 1984, they most likely come from the Kilusiktormiut, whose territories encompass both sides of Coronation Gulf, Nunavut.

Quand:

The trousers may have been obtained by members of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1918) who were among the first non-Inuit to make contact with the Kilusiktormiut, then called the Copper Eskimos.

Qui:

The Kilusiktormiut preferred to use the glossy caribou skins for both inner and outer layers. Men and women cooperated to produce these fine garments. An Inuit seamstress spent over a month to make enough sets of clothing for her family to last the year.

ME983X.51.1-2
© Musée McCord
Mitaines
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuit du Kivalliq (Qaernermiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1910-1915, 20e siècle
14 x 21 cm
Don de Mr. Christian Leden
ME983X.51.1-2
© Musée McCord

Description:

Les couturières de l'Arctique connaissent les propriétés de nombreuses peaux d'animaux et savent quand et comment les utiliser. Ces mitaines d'hiver sont en épaisse fourrure de caribou, suivant un patron commun à tous les Inuits : il n'y a pas de couture à la base du pouce, et sur le poil de la mitaine le poil est orienté vers le corps afin d'assurer une meilleure prise. Une paire de mitaines chaudes est un élément essentiel à la survie dans l'Arctique.

Clefs de l'histoire:

In winter Inuit men can wear two sets of short caribou mitts, but usually one layer is considered adequate and less clumsy. Caribou leg skin is preferred for winter mitts since it is long lasting. For tasks in warm weather and wet conditions, sealskin mitts are worn. Long bearskin mitts are favoured when working with snow, especially when building an iglu or when icing sled runners in springtime because, as with sealskin, the hair does not shed when damp.

A three-piece pattern for mitts is found all over the Arctic, usually with a fourth piece to make a strip at the wrist, although in Labrador and Siberia one- and two-piece patterns are known. Among finds of frozen skin clothing, a child's mitten from the Thule culture (about 1000-1600 CE) was discovered in 1985 at an archaeological site on Devon Island, Nunavut. Studies have revealed that it is made up of the three-piece pattern using stitches and seams that correspond to those used by contemporary Inuit seamstresses.

Quoi:

These short mitts made from caribou harvested in late autumn have the traditional three-piece pattern. The half-palm is dark brown, with the fur flow running toward the wrist, thus improving the grip on harpoons, rifles and dog traces. The cream-coloured fur on the back of the mitt flows downward so that snow can easily be brushed away.

Où:

The mitts were collected at Igluligaarjuk (Chesterfield Inlet), Nunavut, the home of the Kivalliq Inuit (Caribou Inuit). Their territories extend from north of Igluligaarjuk, south to the treeline that at the coast reaches the Manitoba border, and from Hudson Bay in the east to Ennadai Lake and Dubawnt Lake and River in the west.

Quand:

The style of these mitts suggests that they date to the early 20th century - a time when the Kivalliq Inuit lived mainly in the interior, depending on caribou, musk-oxen and fish. In the 1950s the Canadian government encouraged the Kivalliq Inuit to move to the coast and live in settlements, and these became permanent hamlets.

Qui:

The Kivalliq Inuit are made up of several independent groups, each with its own particularities in clothing. The Qaernermiut (Dwellers of the Flat Land) inhabited the region north of Igluligaarjuk where the mitts were collected.

M2000.28.1.1-2
© Musée McCord
Bottes
Arctique central
Inuit: Iglulingmiut
Hanna Alooloo
1987, 20e siècle
65 x 11.2 x 27.5 cm
Don de Arnold and Betty Kobayashi Issenman
M2000.28.1.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The foot and leg coverings of the Inuit demonstrate their superb technology, complete comprehension of the animals used and sensitive responses to their environment. Severe winter conditions or treacherous spring ice make exacting demands on the Inuit seamstress. Footwear must suit the occasion -- the inland animal hunt, the wait by the seal hole, time spent around camp or home, as well as dances and special celebrations. It must comply with terrain, whether gravel or rock, open sea or floe ice, wet or dry snow.

A person can wear caribou or sealskin footwear in as many as five layers: stockings (sometimes two pairs), short socks, boots (kamiik) and short overboots. Traditionally, feathers or dried grass were added to the inside to absorb humidity and for their insulating properties.

Quoi:

The upper of these kamiik are made of ringed seal, fur outside. The instep is made of depilated ringed seal. The boots are designed to be worn with alersiik (stockings), which are made of heavy caribou skin, fur to the inside. There is also a matching set of ilupirquk (slippers), which cover the foot of the stocking and are composed of ringed seal skin.

Où:

This set of footwear comes from Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay, Nunavut), situated in the northern part of the territories of the Iglulingmiut.

Quand:

This pair of boots, along with its matching stockings and slippers, was made around 1987.

Qui:

The seamstress is an Inuit woman named Hanna Alooloo, who lives in Ikpiarjuk (formerly called Arctic Bay). This small community is situated on the north end of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island).

ME965.194.1-2
© Musée McCord
Bottes
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut; Nunatsiavut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1930-1965, 20e siècle
22.4 x 12.4 x 29.5 cm
Don de Mrs. Arthur Schwartz
ME965.194.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Inuit footgear meets the challenge of weather, season, terrain and function with maximum efficiency, comfort and durability. Hunters usually have three pairs of summer boots and two pairs of winter boots. Proper maintenance of footgear has always been crucial. Splits and tears are mended immediately. The form and softness is maintained by chewing, pulling back into shape and drying the boot very slowly away from the heat source. Drying footgear for two or three days between use prevents rot caused by the growth of bacteria in the humid boot interior.

As is the case in all Inuit boots, the soles of these kamiik cover the bottom and sides of the foot without seams or cuts, making them impervious to snow or water. They are shaped to the contours of the foot at toe and heel by fine pleats and gathers, and bend up to cover the edge of the foot.

Quoi:

These short boots are made with dehaired sealskin and have a cuff of young seal fur. The instep and upper are made of untanned skin, thus improving the waterproof quality. Sewn with sinew, the sole is attached to the upper with the waterproof stitch (ilujjiniq).

Où:

According to the ethnologist Dr. Garth Taylor, the boots could have come from the Nunatsiavut (Labrador Inuit), although they did not typically make and wear short boots. Waterproof boots with a high back heel like these are also found in the Salluit area and in other parts of the Eastern Arctic, as indicated by Dr. Asen Balikci.

Quand:

Seamstresses in Newfoundland are recorded as producing such footwear from as early as the 1800s and continue to make these boots today. This pair probably dates from around 1950.

Qui:

Father Guy-Mary Rousselière, an Oblate missionary, suggested that the boots may have been made as a gift for a non-Inuit because of the odd size as compared to Inuit footwear: the foot is very long, the upper quite short. Perhaps they were made for the donor's husband, Dr. Arthur Schwartz, who obtained them some time before 1965.

ME983X.69.1-4
© Musée McCord
Bottes et doublures
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Kalaallit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1909-1910, 20e siècle
23 x 10 x 22 cm
Don de la Canadian Guild of Crafts
ME983X.69.1-4
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The design of these boots from Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) shows a distinctive pattern that is found in the Eastern and Western Arctic, but not in between. The pattern has two pieces, the upper and the sole, with a third piece to form the cuff. One seam of the upper runs down the mid-centre of the boot front and then diagonally across one side of the instep to the outer edge -- left if the left foot, right if the right -- of the sole.

Boots with the same seam configuration from the Thule era, dated 1150-1350 CE, were found on the floor of a winter dwelling on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Is it possible that some of the boots worn by the Thule culture bearers on their journey across the Arctic from Alaska to Kalaallit Nunaat had this pattern?

Quoi:

These short boots, probably for a girl, are made of depilated sealskin and sewn with sinew. The upper is made of white, freeze-dried, sealskin. The lower part of the cuff is decorated with an appliquéd skin mosaic (avitat). The sole comes up the sides of the foot, is pleated at toe and heel and has a layer of fur on the inside. The boot liners, or stockings, are made of tanned sealskin with the fur to the inside.

Où:

Christian Leden (1882-1957), the Norwegian anthropologist who collected the boots, probably obtained them in West Kalaallit Nunaat. Leden went to Kalaallit Nunaat in 1909 to record music and songs as well as to film the Inuit.

Quand:

These boots were collected in 1909; however, the Kalaallit still use this pattern to make waterproof sealskin boots.

Qui:

Short white or red-dyed sealskin boots were worn exclusively by Kalaallit women. By examining historic photographs we know that the colour white was favoured by young women, and red was more frequently seen among elder women.

ME931.5.2.1-2
© Musée McCord
Bottes
Arctique de l'Ouest ou Arctique central
Inuit: Inuit du Kivalliq; Inuvialuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
75 x 9 x 28 cm
Don de Mrs. Walter Molson
ME931.5.2.1-2
© Musée McCord

Description:

La juxtaposition de pièces de fourrures claires et foncées et l'insertion d'une laine de couleurs entre les coutures illustrent le talent et le sens esthétique de la couturière. Les poils de la semelle en peau d'ours pointent vers l'avant de façon à s'opposer à la neige et à empêcher de glisser dans les pentes.

Clefs de l'histoire:

Inuit women's footwear was very distinctive. The early explorers of Canada were greatly enchanted by the women's hip-high, wide boots and stockings. No longer made, they are described in early writings and represented in images and in museum collections. Another kind of footgear for women had qajjuk, closed side pouches used to store small items for sewing or diaper material.

These boots are made of lightweight caribou hide and bearskin, fur to the outside, and are sewn with sinew. They curve high over the hip ending with a thong that tucks into the trousers. Between the instep and the bearskin sole is a band of pukiq, white fur from the caribou underbelly, followed by a band of dark brown caribou fur, all with the fur flow forward. The fur catches in the snow, prevents the boot from sliding and gives the wearer a sure footing.

Quoi:

These elaborately constructed woman's boots showcase the technical and aesthetic skills of the Inuit. The tops of the boots are designed to give width over the hips and to enhance the appearance by juxtaposing light and dark skins. The seamstress has also inserted narrow strips of stroud of many hues into the seams and at times has used pukiq.

Où:

The boots were collected at Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine) or Paulatuuq (Paulatuk), in the Western Arctic. In both places Inuit women wore boots that expanded over the hip and tucked into the trousers.

Quand:

These boots were donated to the McCord Museum in 1931 by Mr. Percy Noad. They were probably made sometime prior to that date. It was in the first quarter of the 20th century that trading ships from Alaska and Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) penetrated the area, making foreign materials available.

Qui:

The Kivalliq Inuit live in territories that border in the west on Yukon, Nunavut, and on the lands of the Inuvialuit.

ME930.19
© Musée McCord
Ulu
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit: Inuvialuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1905, 20e siècle
12.5 x 20.3 cm
Collection Forbes D. Sutherland - Don de Mrs. Margaret D. Sutherland
ME930.19
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

SEWING TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

The ulu, or woman's knife, sometimes called a semi-lunar knife, symbolizes the Inuit woman and her work. Every girl is given her own ulu to be used by her exclusively. According to the traditional way of life, when a girl marries she takes her ulu and lamp to her husband's tent. When she dies her ulu or its model accompanies her to her resting-place.

The woman uses her uluit (plural) for flensing (removing the skin) and butchering seals, slicing food, and preparing and cutting skins and sinew to make clothing and footgear. A large ulu can be used to butcher game or to scrape skins. According to Leah d'Argencourt Idlout, of Mittimatilik, former Chair of the Arctic Society of Canada, the point of a small ulu can be used as an awl to make loops for boot thongs or for lacing a skin to a drying rack.

Quoi:

The crescent-shaped steel blade of this ulu is bevelled on one side. "An ulu honed on one side can be better controlled and is used for scraping. Such an ulu will not cut into the skin during the scraping and cleaning procedures," explained Jeela Alikatuktuk Moss-Davies, past-president of Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada. The blade is likely attached to the ivory handle with glue that is a mixture of seal's blood, a kind of clay and dog's hair.

Où:

Constable Forbes D. Sutherland collected this ulu at Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) in the Yukon.

Quand:

This is an early style ulu, as the blade is set directly into the handle without a stem. It probably dates to the turn of the 19th century because Forbes Sutherland served with the North West Mounted Police on Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) from 1903 to 1905, during which time he collected Inuit objects.

Qui:

The ulu was made by the Inuvialuit, the Inuit living in the western Canadian Arctic. Their homeland stretches from the Alaskan border east to Amundsen Gulf and the western edge of the Canadian Arctic Islands. The three uniform holes drilled through the blade of this ulu indicate that it was adapted from a saw obtained from explorers.

ME983X.94
© Musée McCord
Ulu
Arctique central ou Arctique de l'Est
Inuit : Nunatsiarmiut ou Iglulingmiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
8 x 8.7 cm
ME983X.94
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The Inuit woman's knife, the ulu, is made up of a handle and blade, both transverse. The handle can consist of one to three pieces. The one-piece grip is the simplest, where the blade is set directly into the handle, a form often found in the Western Arctic. A two-piece handle has a stem, called a tang, between the grip and the blade. The three-piece has an intermediate part between tang and blade. The blade can be shallow to deep and of different widths.

The ulu shape brings together a number of factors for maximum efficiency. The length of the handle approximates the width of the hand, providing a secure grip. When the blade is fixed to the handle by a single stem, the pliability of the wrist is fully engaged. The tang allows a space between the handle and cutting edge and protects the fingers of both hands. The deep blade also protects the fingers and lasts longer since the blade wears away with use.

Quoi:

This ulu has an oblong, decorated, ivory handle. The brass tang is glued into the base of the handle and is attached to the steel blade by a single rivet. The blade is semi-lunar with a straight top edge and sharpened on one side only.

Où:

The style of an ulu can indicate where it comes from. The right-angled top edge of this ulu's blade, with its deep semi-lunar shape, and the two-piece handle tells us that it probably comes from Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island), Nunavut, inhabited by the Nunatsiarmiut in the southern part or by the Iglulingmiut, who live in the northwestern areas.

Quand:

The ulu has been in use by Inuit people for thousands of years. This ulu is representative of one of the styles developed by the beginning of the 20th century.

Qui:

The motifs on this ulu's handle -- the cross with splayed blades and the floral pattern -- are found on objects in both Qikiqtaaluk and Siberia. Passed on through the millennia and across the vast spaces of the Arctic, these motifs are part of the rich heritage preserved by Inuit, among them the Nunatsiarmiut and Iglulingmiut peoples.

M21015.1-2
© Musée McCord
Ulu et aiguisoir
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
8.5 x 8.5 cm
Don de l'Arctic Institute of North America
M21015.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The multi-functional woman's knife, the ulu, is used to process and cut skins for clothing and footwear. The seamstress must ensure that the ulu is "held straight up when cutting skins or the edges can't be sewn together properly," as Lucy Meeko of Kuujjuaraapik, Nunavik, explained. As well, Jeela Alikatuktuk Moss-Davies has pointed out that "There is a certain way to cut furs, for example the trim around an amauti, so it will lie flat but curve when required."

The seamstress works with a razor-sharp ulu, sharpening the blade often with a steel or another ulu, or in the old days a stone or bone. If the skin is haired, she places the fur side down, holds the ulu upright, starts the cut with the sharp corner of the ulu and severs the skin smoothly in a motion away from her body. She lifts the skin enough to prevent the ulu from cutting off the hairs underneath for, if this happens, the seams and stitches will be visible in the finished garment, and the damaged hair will impede water and dirt from running off.

Quoi:

Dr. Robert McGhee, Canadian Museum of Civilization, confirmed that this small ulu is typical of those used by the Kilusiktormiut to cut and trim skins. The tang fits into the handle by a mortise joint and the metal blade is held to the tang by three rivets. Both the handle and tang are made of antler. The blade is sharpened on both sides. A bear tooth, used to sharpen the blade, is attached by braided sinew (singait).

Où:

The territory of the Kilusiktormiut encompasses both sides of Coronation Gulf -- north to Victoria Island and the south coast of Banks Island, and south to the rivers that lead to Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine) and Umingmaktuuq (Bay Chimo).

Quand:

Members of the Canadian Arctic Expedition -- the southern party was led by Diamond Jenness -- visited the region from 1913 to 1918. Many artifacts collected either as gifts or through trade by this and other expeditions were deposited in museums around the world.

Qui:

A Kilusiktormiut hunter likely made this ulu and blade sharpener for his wife. While travelling in his Central Arctic hunting grounds, he may have met Inuit from regions to the east and west. He may have come by the Siberian motifs used in this ulu from the Inupiat and Yup'ik in Alaska, or from the Inuvialuit living in Avvaq or Qikiqtaruk.

ME930.20
© Musée McCord
Grattoir à peaux
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit: Inuvialuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1905, 20e siècle
12.8 x 6 cm
Collection Forbes D. Sutherland - Don de Miss Yvonne Sutherland
ME930.20
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Before skins can be made into clothing, they must be treated. Otherwise they will stiffen, rot or split with use. The lengthy process of scraping, wetting and rescraping is repeated until the skins reach the desired quality. Speaking of caribou hide, Sarah Baron of Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, explained, "When it was dry, it was scraped with a sharp scraper so that it was soft enough to be somewhat elastic... It had to be kneaded and then with a sharp scraper it was scraped until it was nice and smooth."

Sealskin is treated in a similar manner to caribou, but the steps occur in a different order. The women, sometimes aided by the men, first employ a blunt-edged scraper to remove the meat and fat particles from the skin's inner side. This very hard work may take three hours. Once the tissues are removed, the skin is moistened, left for a day or so, scraped across the length and breadth, gently stretched, then rescraped with a sharp scraper or ulu that gives the skin a fine, soft texture.

Quoi:

This scraper consists of an ivory handle, a collar of old ivory affixed to the underside, possibly of mammoth bone, and a slate blade that has been glued into the handle. The handle is carefully carved to fit the user's hand.

Où:

The scraper was collected by Forbes D. Sutherland at Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island, Yukon Territory) when he was a constable with the North West Mounted Police. It is typical of those found in the western Canadian Arctic and in Alaska.

Quand:

Constable Forbes collected the scraper when on a tour of duty with the North West Mounted Police (forerunner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) from 1903 to 1905. However, the polish and signs of wear on this scraper lead us to believe that it was made and used some time before Constable Forbes obtained it.

Qui:

Sometimes referred to as the Mackenzie Delta Inuit, the Inuvialuit inhabit Canada's northwestern Arctic coast from the border of Alaska to Avvaq (Cape Bathurst, Nunavut). The forebears of the Inuvialuit shared their economy, their technology and their culture with the North Alaskan Inupiat, with whom they mixed and traded.

M4936
© Musée McCord
Alène
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit : Yu'pik
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1915, 20e siècle
Ivoire, pigment
0.7 x 11.6 cm
Don de Mrs. J. B. Learmont
M4936
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

As bone needles could easily be broken when sewing thick hide, the Inuit seamstress would employ an awl (kaputaq) to start the hole for the stitch. Awls are made of any strong material: bone, ivory or metal. If an awl was not available, a pointed tool, a splinter of bone or the corner of an ulu served to make the needle-hole. Awls can also be used to make the large holes required in the sealskin that goes onto the drying-frame or on skins for kayak covers.

Women's tools, including awls, are often elaborately decorated by men and are greatly treasured by women. This awl is carved in the shape of the elongated body of an animal, possibly a sea otter. Incised lines decorate the body with fanciful representations of a seal, fish, fur-bearing mammal and plant life.

Quoi:

The bone used to make this awl has been polished and rounded to make a comfortable fit for the user's hand, coming to a fairly sharp point that can pierce a tough hide. The type of bone -- whether seal, caribou, bear, or the tusk of a narwhal or walrus -- is not known.

Où:

This awl is akin to those created by the Yup'ik men of southwestern Alaska. They took delight in depicting mythological creatures such as the seal, fish and weasel-like creatures on this awl.

Quand:

Although awls can be traced back to prehistoric eras, this example dates to the early 20th century. Siberians and Alaskans traded objects of material culture, leading to shared design elements.

Qui:

The style of this awl indicates that it was made by a Yup'ik person from southwestern Alaska. This region is a coastal tundra dominated by large river systems. The men who carved and decorated the tools used the regional flora and fauna in their imaginative designs.

ME982X.99.1-6
© Musée McCord
Étui à aiguilles et accessoire
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1910-1915, 20e siècle
2 x 43 cm
Don de J. J. O'Neill
ME982X.99.1-6
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

An Inuit woman stored and protected her precious needles in a container carved out of ivory or made from a hollowed bone. The materials used to make needlecases included bone, antler and ivory from land animals and sea mammals. Even the stalk of a bird's feather could house the fragile needles. The needlecase had two basic forms: cylindrical and rectangular. The most common type of needle storage using the tubular model employed a sealskin strap that passed through the length of the tube. The needles were stuck into the piece of hide, and the seamstress pulled it out of the tube to insert or withdraw her needles. Rectangular cases had a hollow interior filled with moss. Sometimes a stopper closed the case.

The shape, decoration and tactile and visual qualities of needlecases attest to the skill and devotion of the men who carved them. The designs, usually incised with an engraving knife, reflect motifs used in the past from all over the Arctic.

Quoi:

This needlecase is made from a caribou bone that has been split, hollowed, trimmed and polished. A strip of dehaired hide passes through the case in which is inserted a metal needle. The bone spatula, attached by braided sinew (singait), could be used to obtain marrow or as a boot creaser. A bone thimble and thimble guard are also suspended by sinew.

Où:

This needlecase was probably collected among the Kilusiktormiut, formerly known as the Copper Inuit. Their territories encompass the vast areas on both sides of Coronation Gulf, Nunavut.

Quand:

Dr. J. J. O'Neill (1886-1965), the collector, served with the Southern Party of the Canadian Arctic Expedition, which explored the Kilusiktormiut areas from 1913 to 1916. The high polish on this case could be due not only to the weathering process but also to many years of use.

Qui:

The ornamental designs made by the Kilusiktormiut hunter on this needlecase are evocative of the earlier Palaeo-Eskimo tradition of arrow-like shapes, triangles and parallel lines. This decoration attests to the fidelity of the Inuit to their cultural heritage, passed from parents to children over millennia.

ME982X.157.4
© Musée McCord

Arctique central
Inuit : Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1910-1915, 20e siècle
2 x 2 cm
Don de J. J. O'Neill
ME982X.157.4
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The Inuit seamstress wears the thimble on the index finger and pushes the needle from underneath the skin toward her, employing the side of the thimble. At one time thimbles were made of a semi-circular piece of dehaired sealskin with a loop to encircle the digit. Another form was a cap of dehaired skin, preferably from the bearded seal or walrus, which covered the end of the finger. An open-ended thimble was made from a caribou's small circular toe bone or muskox horn. Often one side is flattened to accommodate the finger pad.

Metal thimbles with or without closed tips were greatly in demand from traders. Users first took the tip off metal thimbles themselves to make them open-ended; however, according to Dr. Lydia T. Black, professor emerita, University of Alaska Fairbanks, eventually this modification was done by traders themselves.

Quoi:

A caribou toe-bone has been hollowed, shaped and polished to make this thimble. It is open-ended, unclosed on one side and triangular in shape. Etched lines encircle the thimble, and a band of vertical lines runs around the base. A dark pigment pressed into the graving makes the design more visible.

Où:

The thimble comes from Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine), Nunavut, situated on Coronation Gulf or from groups near the coasts of Dolphin and Union Strait.

Quand:

The donor, Dr. J. J. O'Neill (1886-1965), with the Geology Department of McGill University, was a member of the Canadian Arctic Expedition in 1913-1918. The expedition was the first group of outsiders to make contact with the Kilusiktormiut, who inhabit the area around Qurluqtuuq.

Qui:

This thimble was made and used by a member of the Kilusiktormiut, who inhabit the area around Qurluqtuuq. While out on the land, men will take along a sewing kit that includes a thimble by storing it in their quiver or rifle case.

ME982X.187.1-2
© Musée McCord
Sac
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit : Inupiat
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1935, 20e siècle
11.5 x 18 cm
ME982X.187.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This bag made of coiled sealskin strips and sewn with sinew resembles the grass workbaskets made later in the 20th century by Yup'ik women of southwest Alaska. They used them to hold sewing equipment or other small articles. This kind of bag is rare and is found only in a few museum collections.

Women's work bags collected at Sitnasuaq (Nome, Alaska) and Cape Prince of Wales, both Inupiat towns on the Bering Strait, may provide some information about 19th- and 20th-century contacts between continents. For example, the geometric patterns of alternating light and dark skin that decorate these bags form motifs in the clothing of the Koryak, Chukchi, Yup'ik and Inupiaq.

Quoi:

The bag and its lid are made up of narrow, folded strips of tanned, dehaired and coiled sealskin stitched with sinew. Between the sealskin strips run welts of untanned dark sealskin. Carrying straps are sewn to each side of the bag at the top. They are held together by a handsome ivory handle incised with the circle and dot motif.

Où:

It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of the bag since we have no information about the donor. The style of decoration resembles that on bags made by Eskimos on St. Lawrence Island (Sivuqaq), Alaska, or by the Chukchi of coastal Siberia.

Quand:

In the 1780s the Russians established a trading post near the Bering Strait, visited yearly by Chukchi and Inuit traders. The latter would bring back artifacts and then pass them on through their own trade networks. The Russians prohibited travel between the continents after their revolution in 1917, so this bag must have been purchased in the late 19th or early 20th century.

Qui:

An Alaskan or Siberian craftsperson probably made this bag, which was subsequently bought or traded, eventually entering the collection of the McCord Museum.

ME988.127.1
© Musée McCord
Amauti
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Mrs. Lucy Meeko
1988, 20e siècle
60 x 131 cm
Achat de Mrs. Lucy Meeko
ME988.127.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Lucy Meeko (1929-2004), an elder from Kuujjuaraapik (Great Whale River), Nunavik, made this young girl's parka (amauti) while demonstrating skin sewing at the McCord Museum in 1988. She first marked and cut freehand a pattern out of paper folded down the middle. As she went along she adjusted the proportions and curves according to her own inner vision. Traditionally, the Inuit seamstress does not use a standardized pattern: each piece of clothing is made to fit one particular individual, and an old garment can serve as a model for a new one. The oldest method of developing a pattern, and one that is still used, is by measuring with hand and eye. This technique is deceptively simple: an extremely complex system of pattern development that takes many years to master is at work.

Inuit clothing is symmetrical. The middle of the animal's skin is the middle of the front or back of the garment. In the old days the skin was marked down the middle by pinching or biting, folded, then the outline was made using an edged ivory tool. The seamstress also determines which way the fur must flow for each part. Usually in the finished garment the flow goes from top to bottom. The strips of fur or hide that constitute the edges and the ruff around the hood have a horizontal fur flow. The marking and cutting for one amauti may take one hour for an experienced woman.

Quoi:

The amauti is made of heavy caribou skin, fur to the outside. The girl's future role as a mother is foretold by the qaksungauti, the hide girdle surrounding the waist that goes under the amaut, the baby pouch on the back, to support the child. This belt is looped through a V-shaped strap that descends from the neck.

Où:

The artisan who fashioned this amauti came from Kuujjaraapik, Nunavik. The very large hood, rounded side bulges for the amaut, curved indentations of the long akuq (back flap), and shorter flap at the front are all features of Nunavimiut clothing.

Quand:

Lucy Meeko designed the pattern for and made the girl's amauti during a demonstration of Inuit sewing at the McCord Museum in 1988. This event was held in conjunction with the exhibition IVALU: Traditions du vêtement inuit / Traditions of Inuit Clothing.

Qui:

Lucy Meeko was born in 1929 and died in 2004 in a tragic fire that also claimed her husband. She was one of the North's most accomplished seamstresses as well as a distinguished artist whose paintings and carvings are in many museum and private collections.

ME987X.71
© Musée McCord
Spécimen
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit : Inupiat (Utqiagvimiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
46 cm
Don de Mr. John A. Grose
ME987X.71
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Sinew (ivalu) is the thread used by the Inuit to make their clothing and footwear, and to sew bedding, tents and kayak covers. Sinew comes from animal tendons and from membranes of sea mammals and waterfowl. In caribou, a bundle of dorsal tendons (oliyut) lies immediately under the skin on each side of the vertebrae and attached to the tenderloins. The coarser tendons found on the caribou's back legs provide lashings and lines for hunting and fishing gear. Three-ply braided sinew (singait) makes fishing lines and drawstrings for boots. Four-ply cords are used for ice-hole fishing and for the stretching cords on drums. Harpoon lines have from four to eight strands braided together.

Although more and more women today use synthetic fibre, there is no completely suitable substitute for sinew. Its superlative characteristic is that, when damp, it swells and thus improves the waterproof quality of the seams.

Quoi:

Once the sinew strands (ivaluit) are split from the tendon and processed, they are put into a sewing bag and kept in a cool place so as not to dry out completely. Sometimes the seamstress makes up a braided bunch two and a half centimetres thick, as in this cluster, so that she can keep the filaments untangled and proceed more quickly with her sewing.

Où:

The collector, John A. Grose, obtained the bundle of sinew in Point Barrow, on the north coast of Alaska at the Beaufort Sea and near the territories of the Utqiagvimiut.

Quand:

It is difficult to date the sinew but judging from its appearance and from the many objects in the John Grose Collection of the McCord Museum, we postulate a date of late 19th or early 20th century.

Qui:

The Inupiaq at Point Barrow could have acquired the sinew from their trading partners, the interior North Alaska Inupiaq. After the caribou drive most interior Inupiaq would travel north by dogsled to meet the Utqiagvigmiut at the coast. There they traded their caribou skins, sinew and other products for seal oil and skins, ivory, and additional marine products.

PERS-26
© Musée McCord
Dessin
Points d'étanchéité
2007, 21e siècle
PERS-26
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The stitch for which Inuit seamstresses are most famous is the waterproof stitch, of which there are several kinds. The most common, called ilujjiniq, is employed for seams of waterproof boots and sometimes for mittens. This stitch is unequalled in the annals of needlework.

Waterproof seams have two lines of stitching. In the first line, the needle goes part way through the first skin and entirely through the second. In the second line, the needle goes right through the first skin and partly through the second. Some seamstresses, for the second pass, make the needle go only part way through both skins. Thus the needle and sinew never penetrate both skins at the same hole.

The sinew is threaded into a needle, the eye of which is filled by the sinew, thereby ensuring that the sinew packs the needle hole in the skin. The sinew swells with humidity, making the boot impervious to ice, water or melting snow.

Quoi:

This drawing illustrates the ilujjiniq, or waterproof stitch. Traditionally, the stitches are made with sinew. More recently, synthetic sinew and sometimes dental floss have replaced sinew.

Où:

Waterproof stitching is an integral part of the clothing found across the circumpolar Arctic in Siberia, North America, Kalaallit Nunaat and Saamiland (formerly known as Lapland).

Quand:

Waterproof stitching has been used by the Inuit for thousands of years. Excavations at Ellesmere Island in Nunavut produced clothing from the Thule people dating to about 1200 CE, which included a waterproof coat made of sea mammal intestines showing much in common with Inuit gutskins of the 21st century.

Qui:

Inuit seamstresses and their ancestors performed their "magic" on skins to produce windproof and waterproof clothing. The illustration of waterproof stitches presented here was drawn by Anne MacKay, the McCord Museum's chief conservator.

ME933.3
© Musée McCord
Marquoir
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Kalaallit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
5.4 x 88.2 cm
Don de Mrs. LeMans
ME933.3
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

In the 15th century women in Europe embroidered different kinds of stitches on cloth to keep as samples, hence the word "sampler." Young girls would be taught these stitches by sewing them on samplers as part of their education. Kalaallit girls learned to sew the difficult and complicated skin mosaic, or avittat, by practicing on a narrow strip of hide, usually seal or walrus. According to Dr. Cunera Buijs, curator, Rijksmuseet, Leiden, Netherlands, the strip was their kind of sampler, a way to instruct, record and store the art. Non-Inuit traders and explorers called these strips "belts" and collected them as souvenirs because of their artistic beauty. The Inuit never actually used these belts as part of their traditional costume.

In this sampler the avittat is of the geometric kind. The Kalaallit seamstress used a small knife to cut tiny pieces of dyed skin and compose an appliquéd mosaic. The resulting geometric patterns, with their variations of colours, shapes and combinations of strips, are infinite.

Quoi:

The sampler is made of seal or walrus skin (freeze-dried) and has a cotton-fibre backing sewn with black thread. The applied skin mosaic is in many colours: green, red, gold, blue, purple, pink and ochre. Plant life has supplied dyes for the Kalaallit who obtain, for example, tones of red from the alder tree or washed-up spruce trees. Lichen, moss, berries and pond algae also produce colours.

Où:

Samplers and clothing with skin mosaic patterns have been described by ethnographers, artists and other researchers. Skin mosaic decoration is found in East and West Kalaallit Nunaat - it is often possible to learn from the pattern the locale of origin.

Quand:

This sampler is estimated to have been made in about 1900 to 1930. However, in the second half of the 20th century, samplers developed into actual belts that were in demand for sale to tourists and non-Inuit visitors who brought them home as souvenirs.

Qui:

Mosaic patterns were handed down within the family and are unique for the garment and for the age and sex of the wearer. Here, a Kalaallit seamstress and her family are identified as the originators of the designs.

ME930.1.25
© Musée McCord
Parka
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit: Inuvialuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1905, 20e siècle
54 x 118 cm
Collection Forbes D. Sutherland - Don de Mrs. Margaret D. Sutherland
ME930.1.25
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

ARTISTIC TRADITIONS AND EXPLORATIONS

In the early 20th century some forms of Inuvialuit clothing were more akin to the styles of Alaska and Siberia than they were to Inuit garments found in the rest of Canada and Kalaallit Nunaat. The man's parka, or qulittuq, of the Yup'ik and Inuvialuit has a distinctive feature: hood roots that descend from the hood front and are usually made of pukiq, white caribou fur, that forms a sharp contrast with the dark fur of the parka front. In some parkas, as in this one, the contrast is achieved by reversing the fur flow of the roots. Murielle Nagy, an archaeologist who works with contemporary Inuvialuit, has advised that a pointed root pattern represents walrus tusks while a squared end depicts a fish tail.

The use of wolverine fur in making the hood ruff strikingly illustrates Inuit survival techniques. Wolverine hair is long and uneven and, when breath strikes this fur, it forms hoarfrost that is easily shaken free by brushing once or twice with the hand. Moreover, the hair reduces the effect of the wind by creating eddies that reduce wind velocity. Thus a warm microenvironment is maintained between the face and the hood. Some of the fur and fringes on this qulittuq are worn away, indicating that it was probably worn daily by a hunter for very hard work.

Quoi:

This man's qulittuq is made of the dark brown caribou skins gathered in the summer before the autumn rain. The hood roots, representing walrus tusks, are distinguished from the parka front by the upward flow of their fur. A ruff of wolverine fur frames the face.

Où:

The parka was collected by Forbes D. Sutherland at Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) when he was a constable with the North West Mounted Police.

Quand:

Constable Forbes collected the qulittuq when on a tour of duty with the North West Mounted Police from 1903 to 1905.

Qui:

An Inuvialuit seamstress made this parka. The Inuvialuit, formerly referred to as the Mackenzie Delta Inuit, inhabit the northwestern Arctic coast from Alaska to Avvaq (Cape Bathurst) and Uluksartuuq (Holman Island).

M5835.1-2
© Musée McCord
Parka et pantalon
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunatsiarmiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
Vers 1897, 19e siècle
49 x 119 cm
Don de Mrs. R. Fairbanks et David Ross McCord
M5835.1-2
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The Inuit use sealskin clothing like this parka (qulittuq) and trousers (qarliik) in warm, wet weather because it is lightweight, sheds water and does not moult with dampness. Inlays of dark and white fur stripes at key places greatly beautify the outfit. These garments also have adaptations derived from non-Inuit culture: the parka has two welted cotton pockets at either side of the side front seam; the trousers have pockets, a three-button fly closure and wooden buttons of European manufacture at the waist to hold braces.

This outfit originated with the Nunatsiarmiut who occupy the southern two-thirds of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island). Between 1576 and 1578 this region was visited by Sir Martin Frobisher, who was in search of the Northwest Passage to India and China. He took a number of Inuit captive and took them back to England. Images of these captives have been preserved in the watercolours of artist John White. There are many features in common between the 16th century clothing shown in these paintings and that of this 19th century parka and trousers.

Quoi:

This man's parka (qulittuq) and trousers (qarliik) are made from the skin of young ringed seal, fur to the outside. The parka is straight cut, has side vents and a pointed hood. Both garments are loose-fitting to allow air circulation, thereby keeping the body cool and dry.

Où:

Siasi Smiler, Kativik School Board, and Judy McGrath, editor, archivist and curator in Labrador, have identified this clothing as coming from Qikiqtaaluk due to the pointed hood, straight-cut edge and side vents.

Quand:

These garments appear to have been made specifically for Dr. William Wakeham in 1897, the date when he commanded an expedition to the Arctic. Wakeham learned from the Nunatsiarmiut how best to survive in the Arctic, including what to wear. A photograph in the collection of Library and Archives Canada shows him dressed in this clothing.

Qui:

Dr. William Wakeham (1845-1915) had this outfit made for him while he was commander of the S. S. Diana for Marine and Fisheries Canada. The ship visited ports on the Labrador coast, in Ungava Bay, on both sides of Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay and on the coast of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island) up to Cumberland Sound.

M5836
© Musée McCord
Amauti de veuve ou arnauti
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunatsiarmiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1890-1897, 19e siècle
59 x 156 cm
Don de Mrs. R. Fairbanks et Mr. David Ross McCord
M5836
© Musée McCord

Description:

À compter du début des années 1800, le contact avec les explorateurs, les baleiniers et les marchands non autochtones a permis aux Inuit d'entrer en possession d'une vaste gamme de marchandises de troc, incluant des étoffes colorées, des pièces de monnaie, des ustensiles de métal et des perles de verre. Comme le démontre cet amauti du milieu du dix-neuvième siècle provenant de la région du détroit d'Hudson, les femmes inuit n'ont pas tardé à utiliser ces nouveaux objets comme éléments décoratifs dans la fabrication de leurs vêtements. Des pièces d'un cent américaines datant de 1848 à 1855 ornent le pan arrière de l'amauti, tandis que des cuillères, des pendeloques de laiton et des perles de verre décorent le devant. Nous savons que cet amauti appartenait à une veuve parce qu'il est muni du petit amaut plat (poche de bébé) qui symbolise l'ancien rôle de maternité de la femme.

Clefs de l'histoire:

This finely made widow's amauti, called an arnauti, has a small, flat amaut, the baby pouch on the mother's back symbolizing the widow's former role as a child-bearer. It is elaborately decorated with trade goods. Four spoon bowls drop down the central front of the kiniq (apron). At the centre back, starting at the base of the amaut, the seamstress has attached a brass boss and groups of American one-cent pieces with dates 1848 to 1855. Intricate beadwork embellishes these attachments and also ornaments the amauti front, along with colourful braid and lead drops.

The Nunatsiarmiut, the "People of the Beautiful Land," occupy the southern two-thirds of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island, Nunavut) from north of Kangiqlugaapik (Clyde River) to Nuvummiut Tariunga (Hudson Strait). Starting in the early 19th century, they could obtain European goods from explorers, Hudson's Bay Company supply ships and at HBC trading posts in return for caribou meat, fish, oil, whalebone and furs, primarily those of caribou, fox, wolf and seal. One ship's list included -- besides weapons and fishing equipment, tools and tobacco -- articles sought by Inuit seamstresses: 15,000 needles, 288 open top thimbles, over 2,000 yards of calico and other cloth, and 475 hanks of beads.

Quoi:

This amauti is made of the skin of young ringed seal, fur to the inside. These seals, three to six months old, have thick, soft, silver-tipped hair and are favoured for garments where the fur faces inward. Outlining the face and wrists are narrow bands from the dark skin of adult ringed seal.

Où:

This amauti has been identified by Siasi Smiler, Kativik School Board, as coming from the Qikiqtaaluk due to the style of the pointed hood, squared0 kiniq (apron) and akuq (tail).

Quand:

This amauti was collected by Dr. William Wakeham in 1897, although it incorporates older items. The American coins date from 1848 to 1855. The beads on the amauti feature the beautiful bead called Cornaline d'Aleppo that appeared in the Arctic early in the 1800s, mainly via Hudson's Bay Company supply ships.

Qui:

It is not known whether the Nunatsiarmiut seamstress from whom Dr. Wakeham acquired this amauti made it for herself or whether she inherited it from an ancestor. In any case, the seamstress was truly a talented artisan -- the sinew stitches on this garment are very tiny.

M976.148
© Musée McCord
Bonnet de danse
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
Vers 1968, 20e siècle
19 x 37 cm
Achat de Mme Huguette Guay
M976.148
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Social events where feasting, dancing, and games take place strengthen community bonds, honour ancestors, restrain anti-social conduct and relieve tension. Communal gatherings celebrate a successful hunt, make contact with the spirits, welcome visitors and make the time pass pleasantly. For such occasions people put on their best clothes. Most notable is the Kilusiktormiut dancing cap that features a loon skin with the beak upraised from which dangles an ermine skin. Because of its complex construction, the dancing cap was a luxury at celebrations, being shared freely by men and women participants.

Throughout the Arctic, from Siberia to Kalaallit Nunaat, the loon has a mystical and symbolic significance. Because of its call, it is known as the bird of song and eloquence, and by its presence on dancing caps it takes part in celebrations. The loon is associated with vision, both for the layperson and the shaman. In a recurring Inuit legend, the loon restores eyesight to a blind child. There is no faster water bird, and whoever wears clothing associated with the loon will acquire its speed as well as vision.

Quoi:

This cap is made up of fine white (pukiq) and dark brown (quirnik) caribou fur strips. A wide band of pukiq surrounds the face and the soft fur of Arctic hare circles the lower edge. Midway between front and back the seamstress has inserted a band of loon skin with the head of the bird projecting upward. From the loon's beak dangles a whole ermine skin.

Où:

The style of this cap is unique to the Kilusiktormiut, whose territories span the vast lands northwest of Hudson Bay west to those of the Inuvialuit.

Quand:

This cap is a replica of one in the possession of the seamstress about 1968.

Qui:

The cap was commissioned to be made by a Kilusiktormiut seamstress at Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine, Nunavut) by Jean Paul Peloquin for the Conseil des Arts Canadiens Esquimaux.

ME967X.36.1
© Musée McCord
Bas ou botte
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
49 x 10 x 25 cm
ME967X.36.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

During deep winter when the snow is dry, the Inuit wear boots made from the body coat of the caribou, the hair of which is long and bulky. Their footwear, as with the rest of Inuit clothing, admirably demonstrates their knowledge, developed over millennia, of humidity and temperature control. The human body, particularly the feet, emits an invisible water vapour called transpiration and, if overheated, perspiration. At a certain point, depending on the temperature both inside and outside the clothing, the moisture condenses and becomes hoarfrost. Fur, made of a keratinous substance, does not absorb moisture, and the frost is easily beaten off it.

When some explorers experienced the Arctic winter, they donned more and more layers of woollens because they did not understand the need to get rid of the humidity inside their garb. They became colder as the fibres absorbed the moisture from the body. When their clothing and leather boots froze and there was no way to dry them out, they were doomed.

Quoi:

This boot is made of heavy caribou fur. Six vertical gores of alternating light and dark fur, fur flow down, make up the leg. The top casing is of lynx, through which goes a drawstring of singait (braided sinew). The drawstring can be loosened to allow humidity to escape or tightened to keep out wind and snow.

Où:

Boots like this one were in widespread use across the Arctic, making it difficult to pinpoint the origin of this example.

Quand:

We do not know exactly when this boot was acquired. Nevertheless, by comparing it to similar examples, it is possible to suggest that this footwear may date to the early 20th century.

Qui:

Our research tells us that boots like this one were most likely made by a Kilusiktormiut seamstress; however, the boot may also come from the Kivalliq (Caribou) Inuit who live on the west coast of Hudson Bay or the Nunatsiarmiut of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island).

ME966X.124.1
© Musée McCord
Amauti
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
63 x 103 cm
ME966X.124.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This young girl's outfit incorporates symbols signifying her coming role as a wife and mother, and intended to protect both her and her future children. Amulets are suspended on the back of this amauti. There is a slight expansion, as well, on the back that symbolizes a full-sized amaut, or baby pouch. Traditionally, three amulets would be placed across the back of a woman's parka to help her acquire the characteristics and power of certain animals. This amauti has two amulets (a third one is missing): the middle one consists of a young ptarmigan wrapped in a caribou leg skin, head and claws showing at either end. On the left side of the head, a hat pin (?) topped by an amber-coloured bead has been inserted, possibly to represent an eye. The other amulet is the whole skin of a weasel.

Inuit mothers also placed amulets on their children's clothing to help them grow up to be successful hunters or mothers. The amulets on a girl's amauti made certain that her future sons would have good fortune. According to historic accounts, the ptarmigan provides the properties of speed and endurance as a runner. The weasel gives strength and dexterity. Caribou ears supply sharp hearing and therefore good hunting. The bill of a loon helps the child grow up with keen vision; a bee provides courage; a bone from the seal makes the child a good seal hunter.

Quoi:

These garments are made from the lightweight dark skins of caribou, fur to the outside. The hood is high and shaped by means of concentric arcs. The hood front is shallow, cut close to the face and has a narrow ruff of cream-coloured fur. Part of the mid-back piece is made from the caribou's head: the ears, forehead curls and eye sockets that are now closed by stitching.

Où:

The distinctive style of this clothing identifies it as belonging to the Kilusiktormiut, formerly known as the Copper Inuit. Their vast lands encompass both sides of Coronation Gulf.

Quand:

We do not know when this garment was made. However, by comparing it with examples in other historic collections, it is possible to suggest that it dates to the early 20th century.

Qui:

A Kilusiktormiut seamstress sewed this amauti and qarliik, probably for her daughter or granddaughter, using age-old precepts and traditions handed down from her forebears.

ME937.3
© Musée McCord
Amauti de jeune fille
Arctique central
Inuit : Iglulingmiut (Aivilingmiut)
Anonyme - Anonymous
1925-1935, 20e siècle
48 x 128 cm
ME937.3
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Many ancient design elements can be seen on this elaborate girl's amauti: the tooth motif, parallel lines, zig-zags and on the amauti toggle, the nucleated circle. On either side of the amaut (baby pouch) base are two beaded rosettes that echo a motif from the front. From these dangle a beaded fringe whose strings end with caribou incisor teeth and carved bone pendants. These are puberty symbols underneath which would be placed thongs to tie up the akuq (tail) when the girl's menses occurred. Beadwork surrounds the face opening and rises up the front centre hood using "heart" and "cross" motifs outlined by parallel rows and triangles, and topped by a large rosette of quatrefoil shape.

Inuit skin clothing contains within it traditions and symbols that come from ancient times and are intercontinental, having spread from Siberia across the Arctic to Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland). Clothing traditions act as a carrier for artistic, social and spiritual conventions, both prehistoric and historical.

Quoi:

This beaded girl's amauti is made of winter-weight caribou hide, fur to the inside, with a high rounded hood. The very small amaut symbolizes the girl's future role as a mother. When the girl reaches her menarche, her mother will insert pieces into the sides and base of the amaut to expand it so that it will accommodate her children when she marries.

Où:

This amauti was collected north of Igluligaarjuk (Chesterfield Inlet) near Naujaat (Repulse Bay), home to the Aivilingmiut, a subgroup of the Iglulingmiut.

Quand:

Numerous Arctic scholars agree that this garment likely dates from the 1920s to 1930s.

Qui:

This amauti was made by an Aivilingmiut seamstress, a member of the broader Iglulingmiut group. Some of the styling and ornamentation resembles work done by their neighbours, the Pallirmiut, with whom they exchanged materials and ideas.

ME986.62
© Musée McCord
Parka en peau d'intestin
Arctique de l'Ouest
Inuit : Yu'pik
Anonyme - Anonymous
1910-1915, 20e siècle
96 x 109 cm
Don du Dr. Philip N. Cronenwett
ME986.62
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Magnificent gutskin parkas such as this one combine technical prowess with an artistry evolved from an ancient heritage. A hooded pullover parka made of sea mammal intestines was worn by Inuit men and women over other clothes for protection against sea-spray or sleet, and for ceremonial purposes. Sea mammal intestines and other membranes undergo complex processing, including several washings, peeling inside and out, and scraping with a blunt scraper. With intestines, one end is tied, the tube inflated, the other end tied and the sausage-like coils hung to dry.

To make a waterproof parka the Inuit seamstress cuts the intestines into the required lengths and sews it aligned vertically or horizontally according to function or locale. She uses a waterproof stitch that does not penetrate any part of the garment exposed to moisture. Decoration on this parka consists of twinned orange horny sheaths from the mandibles of the crested auklet, to which have been attached dark brown feathers from the auklets' crests. These are inserted between the seam folds at spaced intervals and are anchored by a narrow strip of reddish-brown hide. The two seams that join a narrow strip between the shoulder and front and go over the hood are ornamented with the woolly hair of young seal, dyed russet and couched with sinew.

Quoi:

This hooded waterproof parka is made of creamy opaque gutskin. The hood is gathered and has a cord drawstring. The gut strips are horizontally aligned, forming rings around the body. The seams are made by placing two gutskin edges together, "wrong" sides facing, and folding in each edge. The four layers are joined by a running stitch of black thread.

Où:

This gutskin parka is remarkably similar to those produced by Yup'ik seamstresses on Sivuqaq (St. Lawrence Island, Alaska). The collector, James Crawford, was a ship's engineer who travelled extensively in the Arctic and was on ships commanded by Arctic explorer Viljhalmur Stefansson.

Quand:

We think that the parka was made in the first quarter of the 20th century, since James Crawford's travel diary, contained in two pocket notebooks, dates from October 24, 1917, to December 4, 1918.

Qui:

A Yup'ik seamstress from Sivuqaq (St. Lawrence Island) or the southwestern Alaskan coast made this waterproof, sea-mammal gutskin coat. The entire production of one sea mammal coat can take a month.

M2001.27.1.1-3
© Musée McCord
Amauti
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuit du Kivalliq, Hauneqtormiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1990-1991, 20e siècle
43.5 x 195.6 cm
Don de Shoshanna Anisman
M2001.27.1.1-3
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Today's Inuit seamstresses often make apparel, such as this beautiful amauti (parka), of furs in combination with woven materials. They make the garments for themselves, as gifts, for non-Inuit who work in the Arctic or for sale to tourists. This amauti's decoration replicates the fur inlays and borders that outline traditional fur apparel. Commercially made purple and pink braid surrounds the face opening, goes around the kiniq (apron), the akuq (tail), and echoes the kiniq shape mid-way between waist and base. The whole amauti is sewn by machine using cotton thread.

Inuit seamstresses fashion clothing today in keeping with traditional principles used by their ancestors. The apparel conserves heat, eliminates humidity, prevents ingress of water and wind, and has durability, all characteristics that meet the rigours of Arctic environments. The principles of clothing construction, common to all Inuit, abide whether fur, wool, plant or synthetic fibres are being used. Since contact with non-Inuit started in the 13th century, the Inuit have taken from other societies materials and often items of clothing viable for their way of life, while retaining their own basic precepts of clothing production.

Quoi:

This amauti consists of two layers. The windproof outer shell is made of Grenfell cloth - a mix of polyester and cotton. The inner amauti has a layer of pink-coloured polar fleece sewn together with an innermost layer of beige wool felt. The ruff on the rounded hood consists of a whole Arctic fox.

Où:

This amauti was made in Kangiqliniq (Rankin Inlet) where the donor lived and worked. Kangiqliniq is inhabited by the Kivalliq (Caribou Inuit).

Quand:

The donor received the amauti as a gift after the birth of her son in December 1990, from the Inuit woman who made the garment. The seamstress obtained her materials from a woman who sold sewing supplies from her home in Kangiqliniq.

Qui:

The seamstress, although she was living in Kangiqliniq among the Kivalliq, was originally from Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island). She fashioned the amauti to have some features in the traditional style of the Nunatsiarmiut, specifically the shape of the akuq and kiniq, and the decoration.

ME987.154.1
© Musée McCord
Parka
Arctique central
Inuit : Inuit du Kivalliq (Qaernermiut)
May Haqpi
1987, 20e siècle
99 x 128 cm
Achat de Mrs. Jill Oakes
ME987.154.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This contemporary parka has some features that differ from the traditional and contemporary styles of the Kivalliq (Copper Inuit) and are more akin to their neighbours the Kilusiktormiut. The Inuit, formerly a nomadic people, have settled for some decades in communities throughout the Arctic. Hunting and trapping continues to be central to their subsistence activities, alongside the wage economy. Living and working in heated homes and offices has eliminated the need to wear fur clothing indoors. In winter, however, individuals who expect to be out on the land for long periods hunting, conducting scientific research or when the weather deteriorates will don fur clothing either in two layers or in combination with fabric apparel on the inside.

Although outsiders brought new goods such as duffle or ready-made garb, these items brought about no lasting change to the traditional principles of clothing construction used across the Arctic. Seamstresses, knowing the superiority of their clothing to fulfil their requirements, selected those features of southerners' apparel that suited their purposes. The greatest influences on styles today seem to come from exchanges between Inuit groups and from visiting Inuit families who introduce their own clothing styles and methods to other groups.

Quoi:

This qulittuq (man's parka) for winter wear is made from thick caribou skins gathered in the fall and is hand-sewn with sinew. The pattern is contemporary and differs from the traditional style in some minor ways; for example, it no longer has the long narrow akuq (tail) or the many-pieced hood and sleeves. The appearance of this qulittuq is one of luxurious elegance.

Où:

This parka, and matching trousers and mittens (not shown), originates with two groups of the Kivalliq: the Pallirmiut, who live around Arviat (Eskimo Point), and the Qaernermiut, who live inland in the vicinity of Qamanittuaq (Baker Lake).

Quand:

The parka, as well as a matching pair of trousers and mittens that are not shown, was sewn in about 1987.

Qui:

The qulittuq was made by May Haqpi of Qamanittuaq. This parka belongs to an outfit that includes trousers, made by Pipitu Kurok of Kangiqliniq, and mittens, sewn by Ulayok Kaviok of Arviat.

© Musée McCord Museum