M924.1.1-3 | Model sled

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Model sled
Anonyme - Anonymous
Eastern Arctic
Inuit: Labrador Inuit
1900-1925, 20th century
Wood, sealskin, fibre (string), silk, cotton, felt, iron (tinned), glass beads
9.2 x 13.5 x 42 cm
Gift of Lady Amy Redpath Roddick
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Model (422)
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Aboriginal children watched, and imitated, the activities of their elders. In this way they learned the duties that they would have to perform when they grew up. Even young children had certain responsibilities: they sewed mittens or harnessed the dogs to the sleds. This miniature dog sled may have been made for an Inuit child or given to visitors as a gift for their children.

Keys to History

For the Inuit, dogteams were fundamental to survival, especially in winter, when they supplied the only means of transport over snow and ice. With a good dogteam and a sled, a hunter was able to travel great distances to hunt game and carry back enough meat to keep his family alive. He could also move his family and their belongings to richer hunting grounds. Families without dogteams, on the other hand, could only hunt near their camp and often had to rely on the generosity of others.

This model shows the dogs harnessed in a fan-shape, the typical configuration in the Eastern Arctic. The carving is amazingly detailed, reflecting the importance of the subject matter. The model of the lead dog includes a harness decorated with a red and white rosette ribbon. A good lead dog was cherished; Inuit Elders still tell stories of lead dogs that led lost hunters to safety.

  • What

    A model made of wood and metal, decorated with scrollwork and wood inlay, and five wooden dogs. The harnesses and traces are made of sinew. The hunter is also made of wood, with articulated joints. He wears sealskin boots and mittens, which are attached to him by a cord harness in case he drops one. The doll's clothes are made of cotton, whereas an actual hunter would wear clothing made of skins.

  • Where

    This model comes from Labrador and was probably made locally.

  • When

    This model was probably made between 1900 and 1924. The sled decoration and the rosettes show European influence.

  • Who

    The Inuit carver of this model sled is unknown, but it was probably made for the purpose of sale or trade. Poet, writer and McGill University benefactor Lady Amy Redpath Roddick acquired the model in 1924, possibly while visiting Labrador but noted only that it was "made by an Eskimo."