The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
1987, 20th century
Sealskin, seal fur, synthetic sinew, polyester or cotton cloth, wool yarn
65 x 11.2 x 27.5 cm
Gift of Arnold and Betty Kobayashi Issenman
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Stocking (10)
Keys to History
The foot and leg coverings of the Inuit demonstrate their superb technology, complete comprehension of the animals used and sensitive responses to their environment. Severe winter conditions or treacherous spring ice make exacting demands on the Inuit seamstress. Footwear must suit the occasion - the inland animal hunt, the wait by the seal hole, time spent around camp or home, as well as dances and special celebrations. It must comply with terrain, whether gravel or rock, open sea or floe ice, wet or dry snow.
A person can wear caribou or sealskin footwear in as many as five layers: stockings (sometimes two pairs), short socks, boots (kamiik) and short overboots. Traditionally, feathers or dried grass were added to the inside to absorb humidity and for their insulating properties.
The upper of these kamiik are made of ringed seal, fur outside. The instep is made of depilated ringed seal. The boots are designed to be worn with alersiik (stockings), which are made of heavy caribou skin, fur to the inside. There is also a matching set of ilupirquk (slippers), which cover the foot of the stocking and are composed of ringed seal skin.
This set of footwear comes from Ikpiarjuk (Arctic Bay, Nunavut), situated in the northern part of the territories of the Iglulingmiut.
This pair of boots, along with its matching stockings and slippers, was made around 1987.
The seamstress is an Inuit woman named Hanna Alooloo, who lives in Ikpiarjuk (formerly called Arctic Bay). This small community is situated on the north end of Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island).