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Nunavik: Building on the Knowledge of Ancestors

Robyn Bryant, Avataq Cultural Institute

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Introduction:

Robyn Bryant, Avataq Cultural Institute, 2007

Nunavik, which means "the place where we live" in Inuktitut, is one of Canada's four Inuit regions. Lying north of the 55th parallel in the province of Québec, Nunavik stretches over more than 500,000 km2 of environmental wonders, including rocky tundra patterned with fresh water rivers and lakes, mountains and many offshore islands. Nunavik's boundaries were defined by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) signed in 1975 by the Nunavimmiut (Inuit of Nunavik), the Crees, the Quebec government and the Canadian government.

Nunavimmiut have lived in Nunavik for millennia. Our ancestors migrated here from Alaska, and our fellow Inuit can be found in arctic regions from Siberia to Greenland. Nunavimmiut once lived a nomadic lifestyle, relying on the land and sea for subsistence. First contact with Europeans, mainly with explorers, occurred early in the 17th century and intensified as whalers, traders and missionaries arrived in the area. With the establishment of trading posts, Inuit obtained European goods to supplement their seasonal food harvesting in exchange for furs. Beginning in the mid-1950s the Canadian and Quebec governments created permanent settlements with nursing stations and schools. The Inuit gradually moved off the land and into southern-style housing.

Today, Nunavik has a population of approximately 10,000 Inuit living in 14 communities along the coasts of Ungava Bay, Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay. Nunavimmiut have adopted some characteristics of a sedentary lifestyle, blending them with traditional culture. Fishing, hunting and sewing remain essential elements of Inuit daily life alongside microwaves, snowmobiles and the Internet. Inuktitut remains the dominant language, and is used daily in business, homes, schools and political organizations.

As Inuit, we maintain a strong connection to our ancestors. Objects from our past, such as tools and clothing carefully crafted from animal skins and bones, illustrate the ingenious ways that the Nunavimmiut have lived and thrived in their environment. Their will to survive and their joy in living have carried over into modern-day Nunavik. Far from being assimilated into the larger North American society, Nunavimmiut today are building on the knowledge the ancestors accumulated over millennia to carry us forward as modern Inuit. Our culture and our language continue to be the key elements of our survival.


M5837
© Musée McCord
Amauti de mère
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1890-1897, 19e siècle
49.5 x 143 cm
Don de Mrs. R. Fairbanks et Mr. David Ross McCord
M5837
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The amauti is the traditional woman's coat of the Inuit of Nunavik. Unlike a man's coat, which is cut straight across the bottom, the amauti has front and back apron flaps, and the back one is long enough to sit on. It also has a large hood and an amaut, or baby pouch. Traditionally, the infant was carried nestled against the mother's bare back until about two or three years of age. The infant was held in place by a thong tied around the woman's chest, and its legs went around her waist. The shoulders of the amauti were roomy enough for the mother to pull the baby forward to nurse. With her infant in such close contact, the mother was always aware of its emotional and physiological needs. For example, the infant's movements warned her to pull the child around to the front and let it urinate on the ground, although there was a diaper of moss in the bottom of the amaut in case of accidents.

Quoi:

This amauti, or woman's coat, is made of young ringed seal fur, while the dark bands are made of adult seal. The ruff around the face opening may be dog fur. It would have been worn with a pair of fur trousers.

Où:

The shape of the long, narrow, rounded back flap (akuq) suggests that this amauti is from Nunavik.

Quand:

This amauti was acquired in 1897. It shows very little wear and may have been obtained before it was actually worn by an Inuit woman.

Qui:

Among the Inuit, women and girls were responsible for making all the clothing. We do not know the name of the person who made this particular amauti. It was acquired by Dr. William Wakeham, who commanded the S.S. Diana< expedition sent to Hudson Bay by Marine and Fisheries Canada.

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 amauti, or woman's coat, belonged to a widow. We know this because the amaut, or baby pouch (not visible in this photograph), is too small and flat to hold a baby. But its presence symbolizes the woman's former role as a child-bearer.

This particular amauti is interesting because it shows the influence of contact with whalers, traders and explorers from America, Russia and Europe. Usually, an amauti would be decorated with inserts of different colours of fur, and many early examples were also embellished with ivory and bone pendants. This amauti is decorated with an unusual array of European items, including Venetian trade beads in various colours, wool braid, bits of lead and brass, and spoons. The back flap is decorated with American one-cent-pieces.

Quoi:

This is a widow's amauti (coat) made of sealskin and decorated with various items acquired from Europeans, including glass beads, coins and spoons.

Où:

There is some debate about the origins of this coat. The shapes of the kiniq and akup (front and back flap) suggest that this piece is from north of Hudson Strait, probably Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island).

Quand:

Dr. William Wakeham acquired this amauti in 1897.

Qui:

This amauti was made by an Inuit woman from the eastern Arctic; however, her name was not recorded by Wakeham.

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:

The amauti, or woman's parka, is perhaps the world's most unique garment, and although the design is historic, women in Nunavik continue to make and wear them. In summer, the amauti is worn single-layered, with the fur to the inside, as shown here. In winter, a second garment is added over top with its fur to the outside, making the wearer comfortable in freezing Arctic temperatures.

This amauti was made in the Nunavik community of Kangiqsualujjuaq and involved the collaboration of four artists. The body of the coat is made of caribou, and the ruff around the hood is wolverine. The coat is decorated with beads and ringed seal fur.

Quoi:

This is an amauti (woman's parka) made from caribou and decorated with seal, wolverine and glass beads.

Où:

This amauti was created in Kangiqsualujjuaq (formerly George River), Nunavik.

Quand:

The amauti was made in 1979.

Qui:

This amauti was made by Surra Baron, Surra Annanack and Claire Etook. Ayanaylitok did the beadwork.

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:

This jacket and trousers are interesting because although they were made using traditional Inuit materials and sewing techniques, yet they have some European innovations: cotton pockets, a button fly front in the trousers and wooden buttons to hold suspenders.

The outfit was made for and worn by Dr. William Wakeham, a medical doctor and McGill graduate who commanded the S.S. Diana on an expedition to Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay in 1897 for Marine and Fisheries Canada. Many European explorers to the north discovered that the sealskin clothing worn by the Inuit during warmer weather was much more comfortable that any European clothing because it was lightweight and shed water.

Quoi:

This is a parka (qulittuq) and trousers (qarliik) made from ringed sealskin. Both items are loose fitting to allow air circulation, keeping the wearer warm and dry.

Où:

Dr. Wakeham acquired the clothing in Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island), or Nunavik.

Quand:

Dr. Wakeham acquired the clothing when commanding the S.S. Diana in 1897.

Qui:

The name(s) of the woman or women who sewed this parka and trousers was not recorded.

MP-0000.1270.24
© Musée McCord
Impression
Groupe de femmes et d'enfants inuits, QC, 1904-1906
A. A. Chesterfield
1904-1906, 20e siècle
Encre de couleur sur papier monté sur carton - Photolithographie
8 x 14 cm
Don de Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
MP-0000.1270.24
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This photograph of a group of Inuit women with their children shows how women used the same basic materials to create distinctive and beautiful clothing. The geometric patterns on the amauti were achieved by setting in strips of fur or skin from different animals. The women accomplished this with the most basic of tools: a knife and scraper, a needle, and thread made from animal sinew.

A married woman was expected to make all the clothing for her family, including boots and mittens. Each family member needed a set of indoor clothing, worn next to the skin, and a set of outdoor clothing, worn over the indoor clothing. The indoor clothing included an atigi (an undershirt with sleeves) and trousers, and was always made of caribou skin with the fur facing inwards. The outside clothing for winter could be made of various kinds of fur, including caribou, dog and polar bear. Summer outdoor clothing was made of ringed seal. Many people also owned rainwear made of sealskin as well as specialized clothing for hunting on the ice.

Women with good sewing skills were highly regarded, and men sought them out as wives. On the other hand, a young wife who could not adequately clothe her husband risked being returned to her family.

Quoi:

This is a photograph of a group of Inuit women in traditional garb. Several of the women are carrying children in their amaut (baby pouches).

Où:

This photograph was taken somewhere in Nunavik. The building in the background is probably a trading post.

Quand:

This photograph was taken between 1904 and 1906. These days, many women in Nunavik continue a variation of the sewing tradition, making the parkas each year for their children. However, they use duffle cloth rather than skins.

Qui:

The names of the women in the photograph are unknown. A clerk with the Hudson's Bay Company, A. A. Chesterfield moved to Kuujjuaraapik (Great Whale River) in 1902 where he took more then 200 photographs.

M18590
© Musée McCord
Pendentif
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1870-1878, 19e siècle
2.8 cm
Don de Mrs. D. A. Murray
M18590
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Traditionally, Inuit wore a heavy decorative fringe along the bottom edges of their outer sealskin garments. This particular fringe is made of polished ivory and includes several bird-shaped pendants, possibly loons. The fringe had a practical purpose because the weight of the pendants prevented the edges of the jackets from curling up, and so kept the wearer warmer.

The pendants may have had a spiritual purpose as well. In the 1960s the anthropologist Bernard Saladin d'Anglure interviewed Inuit Elders about traditional Inuit religious practices before the Inuit were converted to Christianity. He was told that individuals often wore amulets or figurines as protection against malevolent spirits. Other sources report that shamans wore an additional decorative fringe around the face.

Quoi:

This is a fringe made of ivory pendants, which would have been attached to the bottom of a man's jacket or a woman's atigi.

Où:

These pendants were collected on the East Coast of Hudson Bay, in Nunavik.

Quand:

Dr. William Bell Mallochacquired the pendants between 1870 and 1879, when he worked for the Hudson's Bay Company.

Qui:

Dr. William Bell Mallochgraduated from McGill Medical School in 1870 and took a job with the Hudson's Bay Company in Moose Factory. While in the north he picked up tuberculosis, and died in 1879.

M5095
© Musée McCord
Pendentif
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1910, 20e siècle
25 x 6.5 cm
Don de Mrs. James H. Peck
M5095
© Musée McCord

Description:

Les accessoires du costume inuit étaient à la fois fonctionnels, décoratifs et symboliques. Dans la plupart des régions arctiques, des franges, composées d'étroites lanières de peau de caribou, garnissaient le bas de la veste. Des franges étaient également posées sur les vêtements soit en bandes, soit en pompons. Des articles de commerce européens - perles, pièces de monnaie, cuillères, cartouches en cuivre - viennent s'ajouter aux éléments décoratifs traditionnels.

Clefs de l'histoire:

On their travels, Europeans often carried coloured beads, firearms and other items to trade with indigenous people for items they valued more. This pendant is an interesting example of how the Inuit took ownership of such items. In this case, beads and bullet casings have been incorporated into the decorative trim that was traditional to Inuit clothing, particularly women's amauti, or coats. This piece of trim also contains more traditional decorative items such as caribou teeth.

According to the McCord Museum's original register book, this piece of beadwork is a section of the decorative trim off a woman's white caribou hide coat. It was worn by an Inuit girl on a journey in the Arctic to Hudson Bay in 1910.

Quoi:

This is a piece of decorative trim from a woman's jacket, made from glass beads, bullet casings and animal teeth strung on sinew.

Où:

A young girl wore the amauti decorated with this fringe on a journey to the East Coast of James Bay, Nunavik.

Quand:

Mrs. James H. Peck, one of the founding members of the Canadian Guild of Crafts, acquired this piece of fringe in 1910.

Qui:

The name of the girl who originally owned this piece of fringe is not recorded.

M21059
© Musée McCord
Sculpture
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit : Inuit du Labrador
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
7.9 x 2 x 8.1 cm
Don de l'Arctic Institute of North America
M21059
© Musée McCord

Description:

Les Inuits étaient déjà d'experts sculpteurs, et ce bien avant le développement du commerce de la sculpture en stéatite dans les années 1950. Ils taillaient alors, dans l'os ou dans l'ivoire de morse, de petits animaux ou personnages et des outils qu'ils pouvaient donner à leurs enfants, offrir à des amis ou troquer en échange de provisions. Ce caribou d'un grand réalisme fut sculpté par un artiste inconnu autour de 1900.

Clefs de l'histoire:

The Inuit made carvings such as this model caribou long before the commercial trade in soapstone carvings began in the 1950s. They carved small animals, people and tools to give to their children or friends, or to trade with whalers and missionaries in exchange for European items such as bullets, tea and sugar.

The caribou was the single most important land animal for the Inuit. In addition to meat, caribou provided the skins for clothing, boots and tents. The sinews were put to use as sewing thread, and the antlers for various carved items.

About 15 caribou skins were required to make the necessary winter and summer clothing for one man, and many more were required to clothe his family members. On average, each individual needed five caribou skins every year, in addition to sealskins, just for repairs and replacements. As a result Inuit hunters were willing to make long journeys inland every autumn in search of the caribou herds.

Quoi:

This is a model caribou, carved from ivory with copper antlers.

Où:

This carving was collected in Hebron, Labrador, and was probably made by an Inuit who hunted or traded in the area.

Quand:

The caribou carving was probably made in the early 20th century.

Qui:

The artist is unknown.

M13053
© Musée McCord
Arc
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1865-1875, 19e siècle
16 x 72.1 cm
Don de la Natural History Society of Montreal
M13053
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This bow and arrow is a good example of one of the main pieces of equipment used by Inuit hunters before rifles became available in Nunavik. In general Inuit hunters used harpoons to catch marine mammals, snares and traps for small land animals such as Arctic hare and fox, and a bow and arrow for larger animals such as caribou and polar bear.

Hunting caribou with a bow was dangerous because the hunter had to get quite close, and it was not uncommon for the bull caribou to defend its females. Because caribou usually travelled in large herds on well-established routes, hunters usually worked in groups. A popular technique involved using stone decoys to drive the caribou into a pass or gorge, so that the hunters could shoot from higher ground.

Quoi:

This bow is made of antler, spliced together with metal and fibre. The wooden arrow has an iron tip and is winged with gyrfalcon feathers.

Où:

This particular bow and arrow come from Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island) near the Davis Strait. Similar bows and arrows were used throughout Nunavik.

Quand:

This bow and arrow was acquired by J. W. Taylor, who donated it in 1879 to the Natural History Society of Montreal.

Qui:

It is not known who made this bow and arrow. As a rule, each hunter made his or her own equipment.

L45.30
© Musée McCord
Modèle de carabine
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1909, 20e siècle
Ivoire
1.3 x 0.5 x 13 cm
Don de Mr. Hugh A. Peck
L45.30
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This tiny carving of a rifle is remarkably detailed, which reflects the importance of rifles in the worldview of the Inuit. With a rifle a hunter could make his kill from a greater distance than with a bow or spear; this was more efficient and far safer. But only the most talented hunters and trappers could accumulate sufficient skins to trade for a rifle. Bullets were expensive, too. Inuit Elders today still tell stories of leaving for a long hunt with only a handful of bullets. They fired only if they were absolutely sure of making a kill.

The Inuit had a long history of carving small figures and household items in ivory, whether as amulets or toys for children. When European whalers and explorers made their appearance in Nunavik waters, the Inuit created ivory trinkets like this as trade items.

Quoi:

This is a model rifle carved of ivory, possibly from walrus or narwhal tusk.

Où:

Mr. Hugh A Peck probably bought this model in Kuujjuaq (formerly Fort Chimo) during his voyage aboard the Revillion Frères steamer from Montreal to James Bay and back.

Quand:

In 1909 Mr. Hugh A Peck travelled by steamer from Montreal to James Bay. According to his journal he spent several days in Fort Chimo in late September.

Qui:

Mr. Hugh A. Peck noted in his journal that he acquired "a lot of ivory" from a Mr. Cotter at the Hudson's Bay company post. In these days, Hudson's Bay company personnel seldom bothered to record the name of a particular item's carver.

L51.30.1-4
© Musée McCord
Modèle de harpon
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1909, 20e siècle
1.3 x 30.5 cm
Don de Mr. Hugh A. Peck
L51.30.1-4
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This model shows one of the most important tools employed by Inuit hunters before rifles became available. Harpoons were the favoured weapon for killing a variety of marine mammals, from seals and walrus to belugas and right whales.

Sometimes, a hunter waited by a seal's breathing hole to harpoon the animal or tried to spear one from the edge of the sea ice. A far more dangerous method was hunting from a qajaq (kayak) because the hunter had to stand up in order to spear the animal effectively. Groups of hunters worked together to catch a right whale, trying to paddle close while the giant animal slept on the surface. This was an especially dangerous job because the injured animal usually tried to flee and pull the hunters underwater.

The avataq, or float, was made of sealskin filled with air. It was connected to the harpoon with a long leather line. The avataq prevented the harpooned animal from sinking before the hunter could pull it to shore.

Quoi:

This is a model of a harpoon and a skin float (avataq). The harpoon is made from wood and ivory, the avataq from hide and sinew.

Où:

This was the most popular weapon for hunting sea mammals throughout Nunavik.

Quand:

This particular harpoon was probably acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company post in Kuujjuaq, Nunavik, in 1909, according to the journal of Mr. Hugh A. Peck. He noted that he acquired a number of "interesting articles" there.

Qui:

Mr. Hugh A. Peck of Montreal acquired this item from Henry Martin Stewart Cotter, Post Manager at Kuujjuaq for the Hudson's Bay Company. The name of the artist who made the model is unknown.

M976.102.4
© Musée McCord
Sculpture
Arctique
Inuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1950-1955, 20e siècle
8.4 x 5.3 x 8.9 cm
Don du Dr. Walter Pfeiffer
M976.102.4
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This carving depicts a kneeling man leaning over a hole in the ice, holding a baited jig in one hand and a fishing leister in the other. Traditionally, the three-pronged leister, or fish spear, was fashioned from antler and metal with a wood handle.

The carving is unusual in that it is made of wood rather than soapstone. It was carved by an Inuit patient sent south to Quebec City for medical treatment, and wood was the only material available there.

The Inuit supplemented their diet throughout the year with a variety of freshwater and saltwater fish. They usually fished alone and employed fish spears or fishing lines. However, the most intensive fishery took place at the end of summer when the salmon migrated from the sea back to the inland lakes. Several families worked together to build a dike across a river, leaving a narrow opening so the fish could swim into a shallow holding pond blocked off with stones. Women and children used stones and sticks to frighten the salmon into the shallows, where the men speared them in great numbers.

Quoi:

This is a wooden carving of a man fishing using a leister (fish spear) and a jig.

Où:

This object was carved at Parc Savard Hospital in Quebec City.

Quand:

The carving was made in 1955.

Qui:

This carving is signed in syllabics and spells Kulula/Kolola, which is a common family name today in Kimmiruk (Lake Harbour).

M278
© Musée McCord
Sculpture
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1865-1900, 19e siècle
Ivoire, pigment
3.6 x 18 cm
Don de Mr. David Ross McCord
M278
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This ivory carving of the small, tusked whale called the narwhal has been stained with pigment to resemble the mottled skin of the actual animal. Traditionally, the Inuit hunted narwhals for meat, blubber, sinew and ivory, although never as extensively as they hunted seal and walrus. These days, narwhal are rarely seen near Nunavik because their numbers continue to dwindle.

The narwhal is the only whale with a tusk. The tusk, which grows in a spiral pattern, is actually a tooth that grows as long as 2.5 metres. Early European explorers sometimes took home narwhal tusks claiming that they were from unicorns. An Inuit legend tells the story of the first narwhal. A blind hunter named Lumaaq tied his wicked stepmother to his harpoon, in place of a float, and threw the harpoon at a beluga. The woman was dragged into the sea by the beluga where she transformed into a narwhaler long braid, which had wrapped around the harpoon, became the narwhal's tusk.

Quoi:

This is an ivory carving of a narwhal, probably made from walrus tusk.

Où:

This carving comes from the Ungava Bay area of Nunavik. By the early 20th century narwhal were quite rare in the area.

Quand:

This carving was probably made between 1865 and 1900.

Qui:

The artist who carved this narwhal is unknown. It is likely that he traded it to or gave it as a gift to a European or American whaler or explorer.

MP-1976.26.49
© Musée McCord
Photographie
La saison de la collecte des fourrures de renard blanc, Revillon Frères, Port Harrison, QC, vers 1920
Samuel Herbert Coward
Vers 1920, 20e siècle
Sels d'argent sur papier monté sur papier - Gélatine argentique
10 x 8 cm
Don de Mrs. Dorothy Martin
MP-1976.26.49
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This photograph shows the number of fox skins that the trading post operated by Revillion Frères in Port Harrison (now known as Inukjuak) purchased in one season (probably 1920). Prior to the arrival of the traders, foxes were not especially important to the Inuit, although they used them occasionally for food and to make the trim for clothing. However, Europeans placed a high value on fox fur, especially from white foxes, so the Inuit adapted their hunting practices to fill the demand from Revillion and the Hudson's Bay Company (the two companies that operated trading posts in Nunavik).

A successful fox trapper could acquire a rifle and bullets, and thus improve his chances of providing food for his family. The trading posts also carried flour, sugar, tea and tobacco, and the Inuit quickly developed a taste for these "luxuries."

The fox harvest was not a dependable source of income, however. In winter the foxes fed primarily on lemmings, and because the lemming population crashes every three or four years, the fox population fluctuated.

Quoi:

This is a photograph of the fox skins purchased by the Revillion Frères trading post in Inukjuak (Port Harrison) during a single season.

Où:

Port Harrison, Quebec. The community is now known as Inukjuak.

Quand:

This photograph was probably taken in 1920.

Qui:

The photographer was Samuel Herbert Coward. There is no record of the names of the individuals in the photo.

M5811
© Musée McCord
Couteau
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20e siècle
5.5 x 25.8 cm
Don de Miss Mabel Molson
M5811
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

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.

Quoi:

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

Où:

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

Quand:

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

Qui:

The artisan who made this knife is not known.

M5797
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Rangée de maisons de neige, baie Wakeham, détroit de Hudson, QC, vers 1910
Anonyme - Anonymous
Vers 1910, 20e siècle
Gélatine argentique
14 x 24 cm
Don de Miss Mabel Molson
M5797
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

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.

Quoi:

This is a winter encampment of snow houses.

Où:

Winter encampments were usually erected near the shore.

Quand:

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.

Qui:

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

MP-1984.127.27
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Groupe d'Inuits dans la cale avant du vapeur « Nascopie », 1926
Frederick W. Berchem
Septembre 1926, 20e siècle
Sels d'argent - Gélatine argentique
8.3 x 13.4 cm
Achat
MP-1984.127.27
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This photograph shows a group of Inuit travelling on the S.S. Nascopie. The older generations are wearing traditional clothing, while the clothes and hair of some of the children show the influence of Qallunaat (white people). They are probably members of the same family. Traditionally, the qiturngariit, the basic family unit consisting of a mother, father and their children, very seldom lived alone.

Instead, they lived in a domestic unit of 8 to 14 people who shared the same snow house and worked together as an economic unit. This type of family group was called an illumiuqatigiit (those who share the same snow house). Such an arrangement could include grandparents, unmarried or widowed brothers or sisters, adopted children and even children taken in as helpers. Occasionally, the leader of the family had more than one wife.

During the seasonal migrations in search of game, the domestic units travelled in larger groups or bands of up to 30 people. Only the wealthiest families owned an umiaq (large skin boat), but the other band members were able to travel with them, in return for sharing in the workload.

Quoi:

This is a photograph of a group of Inuit travelling together on a Qallunaatship, the S.S. Nascopie. Various generations are represented, and the individuals are probably related, since family members usually travelled together.

Où:

The Royal Mail Ship NNascopie was a 2,500 ton steamer-icebreaker belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company. In July 1912 the Nascopie set sail on the first of 34 voyages through the Hudson Strait as a supply ship for the H.B.C. northern outposts. The Nascopie made her annual voyage each year going farther and farther north, and in 1926 went as far as Arctic Bay.

Quand:

This photograph was taken in September 1926.

Qui:

The names of the individuals in this photograph were not recorded. The photographer was Frederick W. Berchem. Hudson's Bay Company archives records show that Frederick W. Berchem was chief officer on the S.S. Nascopie from 1926-1930.

L61.30.1-3
© Musée McCord
Modèles réduits de lampes
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
1900-1909, 20e siècle
Stéatite
Don de Mr. Hugh A. Peck
L61.30.1-3
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The qulliq, or soapstone lamp, was probably the most important item any Inuit woman owned. The qulliq was used for heat, light and cooking, and maintaining it was the wife's responsibility. If more than one wife shared a tent or snow house, each wife maintained her own qulliq and her own cooking area.

To make a fire the woman first laid a bit of dried cottongrass or moss around the lip of the lamp. The bowl of the lamp was filled with seal oil or whale oil. She lit the cottongrass with a stone flint or a bowdrill, which required some skill. Once the lamp was lit she had to tend it carefully, since an untended lamp could poison the household. In the autumn each wife had to collect sufficient cottongrass or moss to last the winter.

Quoi:

This is an exact model of a qulliq, or lamp, which was used for heat, light and cooking. Cooking pots were also carved from soapstone.

Où:

This type of qulliq was used throughout Nunavik. There were only a few soapstone quarries in the territory, and Inuit sometimes traded with other bands to acquire soapstone.

Quand:

Until the Inuit were obliged to abandon their nomadic existence and move to settlements in the early part of the 20th century, the qulliq was the sole source of heat and light inside their snow houses and tents.

Qui:

Although all men were expected to hunt, and all women to sew, soapstone carving was a specialized skill among the Inuit. There was generally only one individual in any family band with the skill to carve qulliqs and cooking pots. This particular model was made by an unknown artisan and traded at the Hudson's Bay Company in Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo), where Mr. Hugh A. Peck acquired it.

M12153
© Musée McCord
Pendentif
Arctique de l'Est ?
Inuit : Nunavimiut?
Anonyme - Anonymous
1830-1865, 19e siècle
Ivoire
3 x 4.8 cm
Don de la Natural History Society of Montreal
M12153
© Musée McCord

Description:

Les Thuléens, les ancêtres du peuple inuit d'aujourd'hui, consacraient une grande partie de leur énergie créative à la décoration des objets usuels, ainsi qu'à la fabrication de jouets. Lignes simples ou doubles, parfois reliées par des crochets, ou des lignes en « Y », représentations d'animaux ou de scènes de chasse ou de vie quotidienne, voici autant de motifs qui se retrouvent sur des objets en ivoire, et plus particulièrement sur des outils de chasse, ou des objets associés aux femmes, tels des étuis à aiguilles, des peignes ou des pendentifs.

Clefs de l'histoire:

Ivory combs such as these were prized possessions, and the elaborate designs reflect the importance of hair among Inuit women. There is a traditional Inuit song about combing one's hair at sunrise.

The combs served a less exotic purpose, as well, because lice were once a fact of Inuit life.

The holes drilled near the top of the semicircular comb may have served to attach the comb to a needlecase.

Quoi:

These are combs made of ivory. The Inuit hunted narwhal, walrus and whales for their meat and blubber. They used the ivory tusks and the whale's teeth to make weapons, tools and decorative pendants, as well as small combs like these.

Où:

It is thought that these combs come from the Ungava Bay area of Nunavik.

Quand:

There is no record of when precisely these combs fell into the hands of Qallunaat (white people).

Qui:

Members of the Natural History Society of Montreal somehow acquired these combs. The group, composed largely of physicians and educators, was the oldest scientific organization in Canada. The members collected a variety of ethnographic items from 1827 until they disbanded in 1925.

M924.1.1-3
© Musée McCord
Modèle de traîneau
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit : Inuit du Labrador
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1925, 20e siècle
9.2 x 13.5 x 42 cm
Don de Lady Amy Redpath Roddick
M924.1.1-3
© Musée McCord

Description:

Les enfants observent constamment leurs aînés dont ils imitent leurs activités, apprenant en jouant les tâches qu'ils auront à accomplir une fois devenus adultes. Dès leur plus jeune âge, les enfants assument certaines responsabilités : ils peuvent coudre des moufles ou se charger d'atteler les chiens au traîneau. Ce traîneau miniature a peut-être été fait pour un enfant inuit ou encore offert à des visiteurs comme cadeau pour leurs enfants.

Clefs de l'histoire:

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.

Quoi:

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.

Où:

This model comes from Labrador and was probably made locally.

Quand:

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

Qui:

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."

ME982X.86.1
© Musée McCord
Lunettes de neige
Arctique
Inuit
Anonyme - Anonymous
1865-1900, 19e siècle
2.6 x 10.8 cm
ME982X.86.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

Snow goggles were an important item of personal gear for Inuit hunters and travellers. They are also a good example of the ingenuity the Nunavimmiut employed in order to operate in a challenging environment. In Nunavik, ice and snow cover the land and sea for nearly nine months of the year, reflecting and intensifying any sunlight. A hunter who ventured out without snow goggles was at serious risk for snow blindness, a painful form of temporary blindness caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. Although the condition was usually temporary, the individual was incapacitated.

Quoi:

This is a pair of snow goggles, carved from a single piece of wood and attached with a string made of braided sinew. The inside of the goggles around the eyeholes is blackened with soot to suppress glare. Goggles were also made from ivory or caribou antler.

Où:

We do not know where these goggles were collected, and their style is not distinctive enough for us to determine their place of origin.

Quand:

This particular pair of goggles was probably made between 1865 and 1900. Snow goggles were undoubtedly used by many centuries of Inuit, and they are still used today by those Inuit who continue to hunt traditionally.

Qui:

It is not known who made these goggles. Each hunter probably made his or her own.

ME937.12.1-13
© Musée McCord
Modèle de kayak avec équipement
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1925, 20e siècle
7 x 10.6 x 94.2 cm
Don de Miss Mabel Molson
ME937.12.1-13
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This model kayak was probably produced as a sort of tourist trinket to sell to Europeans, but its maker took great care to reproduce the characteristic shape of the kayak used by the Inuit of Nunavik. The model is complete with all the equipment that an Inuk hunter would typically use, including a double-bladed paddle, a bird spear, a harpoon for spearing larger game such as seals and belugas, and a float that prevented the game from sinking.

For most hunters a kayak was probably their first major piece of equipment, and acquiring one involved great effort. The hunter first had to kill four or five bearded seals to make the kayak covering and also collect enough wood to build the frame. Preparing the skins and sewing them onto the frame was women's work and involved a day or more of effort by five to eight women.

An Inuk with a kayak could hunt more efficiently because he was no longer restricted to hunting seals at the edge of the icepack, and he could also hunt walrus on the islands. Successful hunters could eventually acquire enough skins to make a tent and a family boat called an umiaq.

Quoi:

This is a model kayak made of sealskin covering a wooden frame. The hunting equipment fastened to the deck includes a harpoon, a bird spear, a trident and a float.

Où:

This model comes from the Ungava Bay area of Nunavik, northern Quebec, Canada.

Quand:

This model kayak was probably made between 1900 and 1925.

Qui:

There is no record of the Inuk who made this model, but it was probably made to sell or trade to European visitors.

MP-0000.596.3
© Musée McCord
Impression
Groupe d'Inuits dans un umiak au printemps, 1920-1929
Robert J. Flaherty
1920-1929, 20e siècle
50.3 x 33.6 cm
De M. Serge Vaisman
MP-0000.596.3
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The open skin boat called an umiaq is sometimes referred to as a family boat because it was used to transport women and children, along with all their household equipment and their dogs, while the men followed in their qajaqs. It took six or seven bearded sealskins to cover an umiaq, which was about 9 to 10 metres, and only the most prosperous and successful households were able to acquire the resources to build one. Families with an umiaq could travel greater distances to take advantage of the seasonal migrations of various animals. For example, they could take their entire family inland by river in search of caribou or move to one of the offshore islands where walrus were plentiful.

Quoi:

This photograph shows a group of Inuit and their belongings travelling in an umiaq.

Où:

This photograph was taken on the coast of Nunavik.

Quand:

The photograph was taken about 1920.

Qui:

The photographer was Robert J. Flaherty.

M2000.113.6.222
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Pilotes de la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson et de Revillon Frères à bord du vapeur « Adventure », Fort Chimo (Kuujjuaq), baie d'Ungava, 1909
Hugh A. Peck
1909, 20e siècle
Sels d'argent - Gélatine argentique
7.6 x 13.3 cm
Don de Mr. Richard H. Peck
M2000.113.6.222
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

As early as the 16th century the Inuit of Nunavik were in contact with European explorers, and by the 19th century, encounters were frequent. The Inuit showed missionaries, whalers, fur traders and explorers how to dress, travel by dogsled and build snow houses. The Inuit of Nunavik were adept at navigating the tides and currents of Hudson Strait, and thus were able to provide much useful navigational advice to European fishermen and explorers, helping them fill in their maps and charts. By the 19th and 20th centuries, many Inuit were employed as pilots on visiting ships.

This photograph shows four Inuit pilots on the upper deck of a steamer in the service of the Revillion Frères, one of the two fur trading companies operating in Nunavik at the time.

Quoi:

This photograph shows four Inuit pilots aboard the S.S. Adventure, a steamer vessel that Harvey and Co. used for sealing in the Arctic.

Où:

The photograph was taken at Kuujjuaq (formerly Fort Chimo) on the Koksoak River in Nunavik.

Quand:

This photograph was taken near Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo) in 1909. The Hudson's Bay Company set up a trading post there in 1830.

Qui:

The photographer was Hugh A. Peck who was a passenger aboard the Revillion Frères steamer Adventure on its voyage from Montreal to Strutton Island and back.

MP-0000.597.186
© Musée McCord
Photographie
Inuits assistant à un service religieux en plein air, vers 1919
Captain George E. Mack
Vers 1919, 20e siècle
Sels d'argent sur papier monté sur papier - Gélatine argentique
8 x 11 cm
Don de Mrs. R. Mack
MP-0000.597.186
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

The arrival of Qallunaat (white people) in Nunavik brought many changes to the Nunavimmiut, and this photograph from 1919 shows Inuit in European-style clothing attending a Christian religious service. European missionaries arrived soon after the whalers and traders to convert the local populace. They met with little resistance it seems; by the early 20th century the Inuit's shamanistic traditions had virtually disappeared. Reports from 19th century explorers tell us that both men and women who showed a particular psychic disposition could become shamans. They were credited with the ability to communicate with spirits and the dead, and were asked to treat illnesses, which were caused by evil spirits (it was thought). Very wise and talented shamans were able to acquire significant social status and power. They also played a leadership role in their communities, making sure that rules and taboos were observed and disputes resolved, and influencing decisions on hunting grounds and migrations.

Quoi:

This photograph shows a group of Inuit in European-style clothing attending an outdoor religious service given by the Reverend Edmund J. Peck.

Où:

As early as 1894, Rev. Edmund J. Peck (1850-1924) established an Anglican mission on Blacklead Island in the Cumberland Sound area of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island). He stayed there on and off until 1902, at which point he became the senior clergyman of the diocese of Moosonee Synod.

Quand:

The photograph was taken in about 1919, in summer.

Qui:

The Inuit in the photograph are unidentified. The photograph was taken by George E. Mack (1887-1941), captain of the S.S. Nascopie. He commanded the ship from 1905 to 1927 (and later became Superintendent of Bay Transport for the Hudson's Bay Company).

MP-0000.596.1
© Musée McCord
Impression
Le chasseur au harpon, 1920-1929
Robert J. Flaherty
1920-1929, 20e siècle
50.4 x 33.1 cm
De M. Serge Vaisman
MP-0000.596.1
© Musée McCord

Clefs de l'histoire:

This photograph is an image from Nanook of the North, possibly the best-known documentary from the era of silent film. The film was one of several in which filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty explored the theme of man against the elements. For Qallunaat (non-Inuit) of the time, the film was probably their first exposure to images of life in what is now known as Nunavik.

Flaherty came to know the Inuit while working as a surveyor and prospector. Unfortunately, filmmaking technology at the time meant most of the events in the documentary had to be staged. Because Flaherty needed the Inuit to interrupt their normal hunting activities to appear in the film, he also paid them to perform. The character Nanook was played by an Inuit hunter named Allariallak. As a result, Flaherty was later accused of distorting reality.

Nunavimmiut today have mixed feelings about the film, on the grounds that the Inuit were portrayed as "cute little Eskimos" and somewhat simplistically.

Quoi:

A photograph of Inuit hunter Allariallak in the role of Nanook of the North.

Où:

Filmmaker Robert J. Flaherty was based at the Revillion Frères fur trading post at Inukjuak (Port Harrison) on Cape Dufferin.

Quand:

The film, which recounts one year in the life of an Inuit hunter, was filmed in 1920-1921.

Qui:

The "Nanook" of the film was actually the Inuit hunter Allariallak. Allariallak eventually died of starvation while on a caribou hunt. The filmmaker was Robert J. Flaherty. The film was financed by the fur-trading company Revillion Frères.

ME930.39.15
© Musée McCord
Ulu
Arctique de l'Est
Inuit: Nunavimiut
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1909, 20e siècle
5.3 x 6.4 cm
Don de Mr. Hugh A. Peck
ME930.39.15
© Musée McCord

Description:

Le « couteau des femmes », avec sa forme distinctive, a toujours été un élément essentiel de l'outillage des Inuits. À l'origine, ces couteaux étaient faits d'ardoise, mais après le contact avec les Européens, les ulus ont été fabriqués avec des lames faites à partir de limes en fer ou de fragments d'acier récupérés. Les ulus de cette taille étaient adaptés aux complexes opérations de coupe requises pour la confection des vêtements. Ils servaient aussi à découper et à tailler les petites peaux. On donnait des petits ulus aux fillettes afin qu'elles fassent leur apprentissage en imitant leurs aînées.

Clefs de l'histoire:

This is a small ulu, or "woman's knife." Ulus of this size were used for the intricate cutting required during clothing construction, one of the most important responsibilities of Inuit women. Larger ulus were used for slicing meat or trimming large skins. Little girls were given a tiny ulu so they could learn sewing skills.

The earliest inhabitants of the Arctic used ulus made from stone. However, there is archaeological evidence that people made and used metal tools almost a thousand years ago, long before the first direct contacts with Europeans. The Dorset people (pre-11th century) made knife blades from iron meteorites that fell in the Melville Bay area. Beginning in about the 10th century, they also acquired iron from Norse adventurers on the coast of Greenland and America. Migrating groups of hunters traded meteoric and Norse iron as far west as the central Arctic, and may have acquired copper from the Copper Eskimos of that area. They worked both metals by cold hammering.

These days, ulus are probably the most commonly used of all traditional Inuit tools and can be found in every kitchen.

Quoi:

This is an ulu, or "woman's knife." It has a steel blade and a handle made of caribou antler.

Où:

This particular ulu was acquired either in Kuujjuaq (originally Fort Chimo) or Inukjuak (originally Port Harrison), Nunavik.

Quand:

Hugh. A. Peck purchased this ulu in 1909, while travelling through Nunavik. Modern kitchens in Nunavik invariably include an ulu or two.

Qui:

Traditionally, men manufactured the tools. However, this type of knife was a woman's tool and would have been a cherished belonging. Ulus are still in use in Nunavik households.

© Musée McCord Museum