Arctic Clothing of North America-Alaska, Canada, Greenland

Arctic Clothing of North America-Alaska, Canada, Greenland

J.C.H. King
Birgit Pauksztat
Robert Storrie
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Arctic Clothing of North America-Alaska, Canada, Greenland
    Book Description:

    In the Arctic, sea and land animals provide the raw materials for garments that allow people to hunt and survive in the world's harshest conditions. Arctic Clothing, developed from a conference held at the British Museum, showcases the work of native artists and skin sewers in an exploration of the ways in which clothing connects native societies to the environment and the continuing importance of animals, birds, and fish to these communities. Essays cover a wide range of subjects, including clothing and identity, the semiotics and function of dress, the significance of birds in Inuit life, ownership of design, and the ways in which creativity has been affected by rapidly changing traditional societies. Fish-skin clothing, the use of caribou and seal hair, wedding dresses, and kayak clothing have rarely been examined and the contributors to Arctic Clothing offer exciting insights on these topics. Contemporary issues include changes in arctic clothing, the importation of manufactured materials, the use of sealskin stencils in art prints, and the adaptation of Native clothing by explorers and for sportswear.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7328-4
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-7)
  3. Preface: Old Boots
    (pp. 8-8)
    J.C.H. King
  4. Editorial Note
    (pp. 9-9)
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. 9-9)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 9-9)
  7. Map
    (pp. 10-11)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 12-22)
    J.C.H. King

    Arctic clothing is in many ways the supreme achievement of Eskimoan peoples. All those of the American North – the Canadian Inuit, the Greenlanders, and the Iñupiaq, Aleut, Alutiiq and Yup’ik peoples of Alaska – depend on effective garments in temperatures which may remain below freezing for up to nine months of the year. The invention of tailoring, the understanding of the movement of warm air, of insulation, and of the venting of moist air, are all part of a technical complex without parallel. One aspect of loose-fitting clothing is the ability to regulate heat and sweat, by releasing and dissipating moist...

  9. Keynote Address Our Clothing, our Culture, our identity
    (pp. 23-26)
    Veronica Dewar

    I would like to begin by thanking the organizers of this conference for giving me the opportunity to address you. I would also like to acknowledge the many other Inuit women from Canada who are here with us. I am often the only Inuk at gatherings like this, so I would like to thank the British Museum for ensuring there was not only token representation of Inuit from Canada.

    Pauktuutit is the national organization that represents all Inuit women in Canada. There are approximately 60,000 Inuit in Canada, who live primarily in the six Arctic regions of Canada: the western...

  10. Part I Personal Narratives
    • Seams of Time
      (pp. 28-30)
      Jana Harcharek

      I remember rather vividly when, as a little girl of about five, I sat beside myaaka, my grandmother, and watched her sew on a pair of wintermukluks(boots). She had already spent many hours preparing the caribou leg skins, first drying them and then scraping them with herikuun, her skin scraper. If I remember right, my grandfather had custom-made theikuunfor myaakaFaye. He had carved the wooden handle to fit her hand, and had fashioned the blade from steel piping.Aakawould occasionally pause to sharpen the tip of the blade with a fine-grade...

    • My Recollections – Nengqerralria Yupiaq Elder Elena Charles
      (pp. 31-33)
      Elena Charles

      My mother Kalirtuq did not have any brothers or sisters, so for this reason, she pampered me and did not allow me to work as a child. All I did was play, play, and play with my friends in our tundra village of Nunacuaq (near the present-day village of Kasigluk), Alaska. When the village children and my friends came to play, we would braid grass and make huts. I would pick hard unripe crowberries and make necklaces for all the children.

      In the summertime I traveled by kayak on the many lakes and sloughs where I was born. I would...

    • How Do We Heal?
      (pp. 34-36)
      Dixie Masak Dayo

      I was born an Iñupiaq, the daughter of the late Hazel Aveogonna Dayo from the village of Wainwright, Alaska, and Stanley Dayo from Wisconsin and Manley Hot Springs, Alaska. My story-dress is a tribute to my father, birth mother, and the Athabascan and Inupiaq women who raised me, as well as to my three brothers, and to the land. It is a symbol of the Alaska Native traditional values that guide my life.

      At a recent Alaska Native education conference a professional educator asked the question ‘How do we heal?’. The response was: ‘Learn your Alaska Native language, practice traditions,...

    • Quiet and Reserved Splendor: Central Yup’ik Eskimo Fancy Garment of Kuskokwim Bay, Bering Sea
      (pp. 37-40)
      Chuna McIntyre

      I always start in Yup’ik because I want people to realize that our language is still being spoken. The lines above explain that bring our clothing to you from a long time ago to show you the incredible work, the beauty that always has been, the skills that it requires, and the commitment and patience it takes to come to this point, because we are very proud of who we are.

      I’m wearing a garment (fig. 1) which was made for me by one of my relatives with the help of our late maternal grandmother, Minnie. My grandmother was the...

  11. Part II Materials
    • Caribou and Seal Hair: Examination by Scanning Electron Microscopy
      (pp. 42-44)
      Nigel D. Meeks and Caroline R. Cartwright

      Clothes of caribou and sealskin have been in general use by Inuit for a long time. Made from locally available materials, they provide effective protection against the Arctic environment. In order to examine how the characteristics of these two different furs contribute to the protective qualities of the garments, samples of hairs from both caribou and sealskin were taken from items of contemporary clothing in the handling collections of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum. The hairs were examined by scanning electron microscopy to provide details of their external and internal structures in order...

    • Arctic Clothing from Greenland
      (pp. 45-47)
      Frederikke Petrussen

      In Greenland, as in other parts of the Arctic, adequate clothing essential for survival. In the past, all clothing was made of skin, while today European clothing is predominant. Nowadays in Greenland a hunting permit is required in order to procure the skins necessary for making clothing.

      For my discussion of the use of skin, I will divide Greenland three parts, namely North Greenland (Avanersuaq), which the area around Qaanaaq; East Greenland (Tunu); and West Greenland (Kitaa).

      In this area, the following skins are used: polar bear skin is used for trousers and boots, and as decorative edging on most...

    • The Poor Man’s Raincoat: Alaskan Fish-skin Garments
      (pp. 48-52)
      Fran Reed

      Weather conditions in Alaska can be extreme and rain is very much a part of the environment. Raincoats have always been essential during hunting and gathering activities such as collecting bird eggs, seaweed or berries, as well as for fishing in the rivers or navigating the seas in a kayak (Nelson 1899: 118; Varjola 1990: 147). Traditionally, the best waterproof parkas were made from locally available materials such as animal intestines, bird skin or fish skin (Jochelson 1968: 18). These types of garments were used throughout the coastal regions of Alaska. Today, however, most rain parkas are made with commercially...

    • Tupigat (Twined Things): Yup’ik Grass Clothing, Past and Present
      (pp. 53-61)
      Ann Fienup-Riordan

      Discussions of Arctic clothing celebrate women’s skill using sinew thread to shape animal pelts, bird skins, fish skin, and gut. What of the lowly grass plant, ubiquitous along the coast of southwestern Alaska? Although animals were sometimes hard to find, grass was within easy reach of every dwelling and required no loom or tool other than the human hand to shape it into myriad useful forms. Contemporary Yup’ik elders speak long and often about the importance of this commonplace material, insignificant to the untrained eye but actually of lifesaving importance

      Theresa Moses was born in Cevv’arneq (near Kipnuk) in 1928...

    • Birds and Eskimos
      (pp. 62-68)
      Shepard Krech III

      Many know the renowned Kenojuak as ‘the bird artist’ (fig. 1), but whenCanada Postselected herEnchanted Owlfor a stamp, she became ‘the snowy owl artist’.¹ Whether from a desire to produce something beautiful or to experiment with form and its elaboration, or for reasons connected to the external art marketplace or other matters, Kenojuak has returned to this owl time and again.² Moreover, even if their avian representations are on the whole diverse, other contemporary Inuit graphic artists and sculptors have followed suit. It is entirely possible that if one’s impressions of the importance of birds to...

  12. Part III Styles and Techniques
    • Eskimo Sewing Techniques in Relation to Contemporary Sewing Techniques–Seen Through a Copy of a Qilakitsoq Costume
      (pp. 70-73)
      Karen Pedersen

      In this contribution I will examine the differences between the way skin clothing was sewn about 450 years ago, and contemporary sewing techniques.

      In 1972 eight Eskimo mummies were found lying in a grave a rock cave near Uummannaq in West Greenland. The mummies were shown to be about 450 years old. The picture (fig. 1) shows the coat (annoraaq) of one of the mummies, which is now exhibited in a glass showcase in the Greenland National Museum & Archives in Nuuk. Here you can get a clear impression of how the Arctic clothing of Greenland looked like 450 years...

    • Iniqsimajuq: Caribou-skin Preparation in Igloolik, Nunavut
      (pp. 74-79)
      Leah Aksaajuq Otak

      Caribou-skin clothing is essential to the success and safety of Inuit during their midwinter hunting activities in the Igloolik area of Canada’s Nunavut territory. In this region temperatures regularly dip below -40°C for extended periods in January and February, often accompanied by persistent winds from the northwest.

      The comfort, efficiency, and durability of caribou-skin clothing greatly depends on the selection of the proper skins and their subsequent preparation and sewing. Skins used for men’s winter clothing are harvested in late August or early September, during the moon-month calledAkulliruutin Inuktitut. This is the ‘middle month’, dividing summer and winter...

    • Amautiit
      (pp. 80-83)
      Rhoda Akpaliapik Karetak

      Our ancestors wore clothing made from skins (fig. 1). When the skins were prepared and softened and ready for sewing, women made them into clothing. Our ancestors did not have measuring tools or patterns like those we purchase from the store today. They were able to produce this complex clothing using only their hands and sinew to measure. One of the most important garments that they made was theamauti(pluralamautiit), the large hooded woman’s parka (fig. 2).Amautiitare an important part of our lives; they not only protect against the cold, but they are also used for...

    • Women’s Skin Coats from West Greenland–with Special Focus on Formal Clothing of Caribou Skin from the Early Nineteenth Century
      (pp. 84-90)
      Anne Bahnson

      In the Arctic collections of the British Museum is an extremely beautiful woman’s coat made of caribou skin (Ethno 1990 Am 12.1). The coat was bought at an auction at Christie’s in 1990 but, unfortunately, the information in the auction catalogue was very brief. It only mentioned that the artefact was: ‘A West Greenland sealskin parka, with various designs and borders in skins of different colours finely sewn with sinew thread. 90 cm long. Provenance: Charles Winn (1795–1874)’ (Christie’s South Kensington Ltd 1990: 73). The coat is unique and beautiful; the fur is soft and it is very well...

    • The Roald Amundsen Collection: The Impact of a Skin Preparation Method on Preservation
      (pp. 91-94)
      Torunn Klokkernes and Nalini Sharma

      The Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo (formerly the Ethnographic Museum) is the home of the prestigious Roald Amundsen collection of artefacts from the Netsilik Inuit. The material was collected over a two-year period (1903–5) on King William Island around Gjoa Haven. In fact, when Amundsen stopped at Gjoa Haven, he was on his way to fulfilling his childhood dream of finding the Northwest Passage. To give further importance to the expedition and to attract financial backers, he had an additional goal: to locate the magnetic north pole. At Gjoa Haven (named after his shipGjøa)...

    • The Remarkable Clothing of the Medieval Norse Greenlanders
      (pp. 95-98)
      Else Østergård

      The subjects of this paper are those people who inhabited Greenland in the tenth century, more than a thousand years ago. The focus will be on the Norse Greenlanders – the Viking landowners or farmers who for different reasons fled from Norway to Iceland and from there to Greenland, where they became settlers in the then uninhabited southern part of Greenland. In the far north there were the Dorset and Thule Eskimos, seagoing hunters of walrus, seal and whale, people who had come from the north of Canada and established settlements along the northwest coast of Greenland at the same time...

  13. Part IV Change and Responses to Outside Influences
    • Dressing Up in Greenland: A Discussion of Change and World Fashion in Early-colonial West Greenlandic Dress
      (pp. 100-103)
      Søren T. Thuesen

      The spectacular Greenlandic national costume is one of the most important ethnic symbols of contemporary Greenland. The costume as we know it today consists of various elements of both traditional and European origin. Although the costume in its present standardized appearance is largely an invention dating from the beginning of the twentieth century (Petersen 1994:7; Sørensen 1997a: 178), it can be viewed as a reflection of the long history of exchange and contact between West Greenlanders and Europeans (fig. 1 and fig. 2).

      This paper will examine the history of change and innovation in women’s and men’s clothes in West...

    • Formal Clothing: The Greenlandic National Costume
      (pp. 104-107)
      Gertrud Kleinschmidt

      The reason why I have chosen the title ‘Formal Clothing’, instead of ‘National Costume’, is a very personal one. I don’t think that beads, silk, silk ribbons, cotton and embroidery wool are very Greenlandic materials. I prefer to call this the ‘modern’ Greenlandic costume. However, just like other people, Greenlanders have always worn formal clothing on special occasions and celebrations (fig. 1). By ‘special occasions’ I mean the first day at school, confirmation, graduation, weddings funerals. By ‘celebrations’ I am thinking of Christmas, Easter, Whitsun, the National Day, and so on. I would now like to describe what ‘formal clothing’...

    • Clothing as a Visual Representation of Identities in East Greenland
      (pp. 108-114)
      Cunera Buijs

      Aviaja owns costumes stemming from different cultural and regional backgrounds: Kilamiut (West Greenlandic), Qaanaaq and European. Apart from aesthetic considerations, her choice of dress, illustrated in her choice of wedding dress for different occasions, expresses her multiple identities in various contexts and locations, shifting emphasis from one identity to another.

      In the Arctic, although the most vital function of clothing may be protection against the cold, clothing serves other functions as well. A highly visual part of material culture, dress is ‘a coded sensory system of non-verbal communication that aids human interaction in space and time’ (Eicher 1995: 1). It...

    • Kayak Clothing in Contemporary Greenlandic Kayak Clubs
      (pp. 115-120)
      Birgit Pauksztat

      A recent innovation, kayak clothing made of neoprene is now used in kayak clubs all along the west coast of Greenland, increasingly replacing kayak clothing of sealskin. In light of the fact that the clubs were founded in order to preserve the Greenlandic kayak and its equipment in their traditional form, this is a surprising development. In this paper I will look at the reasons given by members of the Kayak Club Nuuk for the use of kayak clothing of sealskin and of neoprene, and explore some of the factors contributing to the success of neoprene clothing in Nuuk and...

    • Caribou, Reindeer and Rickrack: Some Factors Influencing Cultural Change in Northern Alaska, 1880–1940
      (pp. 121-126)
      Cyd Martin

      In this paper I explore the relationship between decorative trim designs on Iñupiaq parkas and multicultural contact in northern Alaska. Changes in trim styles on parkas, documented in museum collections and historic photographs, illuminate some of the factors that interacted to influence Inupiaq culture from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.

      Prior to Euro-American contact, Iñupiaq¹ garments shared some design elements, construction techniques, and material types with other northern indigenous cultures. The clothing of Athabascan, Yup’ik and Aleut peoples in Alaska, Siberian natives, and Canadian Inuit has some of the same attributes in part because of a common environment and...

    • Hairnets and Fishnets: The Yup’ik Eskimo Kaapaaq in Historical Context
      (pp. 127-130)
      Molly Lee

      For about a century, Yup’ik Eskimo women in villages with a Russian Orthodox presence¹ in southwestern Alaska have worn a beaded hairnet known as thekaapaaq(fig. 1). Deriving from the Russian wordkappa, meaning ‘hood’, thekaapaaqis knotted out of black cotton thread by the same technique as the fish nets that women have made in this area for as long as memory records. In addition to being decorative, thekaapaaqserves the same practical purpose as hairnets everywhere, confining the hair during daily chores. Despite its long-term occurrence, however, the aesthetic and communicative dimension of thekaapaaq...

  14. Part V Clothing and Art
    • Clothing in Inuit Art
      (pp. 132-138)
      Nelson Graburn

      Clothing has always been a distinctive feature of Inuit culture, both when viewed by Inuit themselves and from the point of view of the Euro-American outsiders. For the Inuit, clothing helped define a person, self or other, in terms of age, gender, marital status, and place of origin. In addition, clothing was a measure of a woman’s industry, creativity and craftsmanship, as well as of her husband’s (or other male relative’s) hunting abilities. Clothing has always been the major art form of Inuit women and it has been an important component of the content of Inuit graphic and sculptural arts...

    • Skin Appliqué and Stencil Prints
      (pp. 139-141)
      James Houston

      Fifty years ago in areas surrounding Cape Dorset, when traveling by dog team in winter and spring, wearing skin clothing was preferred. Warm fur parkas were essential. materials used were usually caribou or sealskin, and occasionally the skins of eider ducks. Women of Cape Dorset magnificent sinew sewers.

      The women were also cleverly adept at the art of skin applique, the practice of cutting silhouette forms and designs animal hides for decorations to be sewn onto clothing or carrying bags. Using a half moon-shapedulu(women’s knife), women often invented wonderful cutout reversal designs sealskin. There is a stunning difference...

    • Clothing Portraits: Identity and Meaning in Inuit Figure Studies from the Eastern Arctic
      (pp. 142-147)
      J.C.H. King

      Inuit drawings have been appreciated and collected byqallunaat(white people) for around two centuries. One of the earliest Inuit images to be widely known and appreciated is a print after a sketch by John Sackheouse, the Greenlander employed as interpreter on the expedition of Captain (later Sir) John Ross in 1818. This panoramic view depicts the first encounter between the Inughuit or Polar Inuit with Europeans (Kaalund 1983: 59). Regularly thereafter drawings were acquired on exploring expeditions, for instance, perhaps particularly in the eastern Canadian Arctic, by among others Captain (later Sir) Edward Parry. Many of these depict animals, others...

    • Kiana Creations: Iñupiaq Parkas as Wearable Art
      (pp. 148-152)
      Glenna C.Kiana Maulding

      My name is Glenna Clair Kiana Maulding. I am named after my father, who is of Russian and German descent. My deceased mother, Minnie Kiana Morken, was Iñupiaq, from the Kobuk River area, and Hawaiian. She was an award-winning skin sewer Fairbanks and Anchorage, and a book illustrator for my aunt’s and brother Chris Kiana’s books. My great grandfather, Duke David Kiana, had to leave the islands of Hawaii. He escaped death with the rest of my ancestors during the occupation of the islands by coming to Alaska by way of China. When my Aunt Lela Oman (a historical writer...

  15. References
    (pp. 153-157)
  16. Index
    (pp. 158-159)
  17. Photographic Acknowledgements
    (pp. 160-160)