M5797 | Row of snow houses, Wakeham Bay, Hudson Strait, QC, about 1910

Row of snow houses, Wakeham Bay, Hudson Strait, QC, about 1910
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1910, 20th century
Silver salts on paper - Gelatin silver process
14 x 24 cm
Gift of Miss Mabel Molson
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Ethnology (606) , Inuit (216) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

The Inuit built three types of winter houses using blocks of firm, compact snow. Temporary snow houses, called sinittavik, were used during winter travel. About 3 metres across, they could hold two to four people and could be constructed in less than an hour.
The permanent snow houses, or illuvigaq, was about 4 metres in diameter and 2.5 metres high. These usually had two smaller domes that served as a porch and a storage area, in addition to the main dome. An average of 10 people lived in one of these.

The third type of winter building was the qaggiq, a snow house built for games and gatherings. These were about 19 metres in diameter.

In the summer the Inuit moved into tents made of sealskin.

  • What

    This is a winter encampment of snow houses.

  • Where

    Winter encampments were usually erected near the shore.

  • When

    The Inuit of Nunavik used snow houses and skin tents until the early 20th century, when they were encouraged to settle in permanent communities. The new houses, supplied by the Canadian government, were shipped from the south. They were so small that they earned the name "matchbox" houses.

  • Who

    Traditionally, men were in charge of building the snow houses, although everyone pitched in when necessary.