The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
Anonyme - Anonymous
Inuit: Nunavimiut; Nunatsiavut
1930-1965, 20th century
Sealskin, seal fur, cotton or linen thread, sinew
22.4 x 12.4 x 29.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. Arthur Schwartz
© McCord Museum
Keys to History
Inuit footgear meets the challenge of weather, season, terrain and function with maximum efficiency, comfort and durability. Hunters usually have three pairs of summer boots and two pairs of winter boots. Proper maintenance of footgear has always been crucial. Splits and tears are mended immediately. The form and softness is maintained by chewing, pulling back into shape and drying the boot very slowly away from the heat source. Drying footgear for two or three days between use prevents rot caused by the growth of bacteria in the humid boot interior.
As is the case in all Inuit boots, the soles of these kamiik cover the bottom and sides of the foot without seams or cuts, making them impervious to snow or water. They are shaped to the contours of the foot at toe and heel by fine pleats and gathers, and bend up to cover the edge of the foot.
These short boots are made with dehaired sealskin and have a cuff of young seal fur. The instep and upper are made of untanned skin, thus improving the waterproof quality. Sewn with sinew, the sole is attached to the upper with the waterproof stitch (ilujjiniq).
According to the ethnologist Dr. Garth Taylor, the boots could have come from the Nunatsiavut (Labrador Inuit), although they did not typically make and wear short boots. Waterproof boots with a high back heel like these are also found in the Salluit area and in other parts of the Eastern Arctic, as indicated by Dr. Asen Balikci.
Seamstresses in Newfoundland are recorded as producing such footwear from as early as the 1800s and continue to make these boots today. This pair probably dates from around 1950.
Father Guy-Mary Rousselière, an Oblate missionary, suggested that the boots may have been made as a gift for a non-Inuit because of the odd size as compared to Inuit footwear: the foot is very long, the upper quite short. Perhaps they were made for the donor's husband, Dr. Arthur Schwartz, who obtained them some time before 1965.