M5811 | Knife

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Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Arctic
Inuit: Nunavimiut
1900-1930, 20th century
Iron, copper, ivory
5.5 x 25.8 cm
Gift of Miss Mabel Molson
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Knife (87)
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Keys to History

This hunting knife is made from a steel saw and has a walrus ivory handle. It was made from a broken or discarded saw, and is a good example of Inuit ingenuity when it came to tool making. This type of knife was a multi-purpose knife, although it was used mainly to skin and cut up seals and caribou.

This shape of knife was considered a "man's knife," as opposed to the woman's knife called an ulu. The different shapes of men's and women's knives reflect the distinct division of labour in traditional Inuit society. Basically, men were responsible for hunting and slaughtering animals, building sleds and boat frames, and building snow houses or erecting tents. Women were responsible for collecting wood, berries and shellfish, preparing food and sewing all of the household clothing. Women also prepared the skins and sewed the covering on the skin boats and kayaks.

Both men and women could be shamans and healers, but women shamans were unlikely to hold much community authority.

  • What

    This is a man's knife called a savik made from a recycled saw blade with a walrus tusk handle.

  • Where

    This knife comes from the Akulivik area (Cape Smith) in Nunavik.

  • When

    This knife was probably made in the early part of the 20th century.

  • Who

    The artisan who made this knife is not known.