The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
Anonyme - Anonymous
1900-1930, 20th century
Caribou fur, sinew, cotton? cord
71 x 132 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Trousers (9)
Keys to History
In the Arctic fur trousers are worn by men and women, although today more and more Inuit wear pants made of woven materials. Traditionally, men wore two layers of fur trousers in winter; women wore one since they did not usually go on long hunting forays in deepest cold. Even now, if planning a trip in winter, men will pack an extra set of furs.
Combination pants (atartaq), sometimes referred to as hose or pantaloons, are no longer made and rarely found in museum collections. In some communities they were seldom worn by men and only by women or children. Women's trousers with feet were discovered in 1981 at the Utqiagvit Archeological Site, Alaska, which archaeologists date at circa 1530 CE.
These pantaloons with the fur to the outside are made of lightweight, glossy, deep brown caribou fur harvested at the end of summer and sewn with sinew. A median seam goes down the front, while the seat is pieced for fullness. The white fur (pukiq) insertions at thigh, ankle and foot echo the markings of the caribou.
Combination pants were most often worn in the Western Arctic. According to Dr. Asen Balickci, an anthropologist who examined the trousers in 1984, they most likely come from the Kilusiktormiut, whose territories encompass both sides of Coronation Gulf, Nunavut.
The trousers may have been obtained by members of the Canadian Arctic Expedition (1913-1918) who were among the first non-Inuit to make contact with the Kilusiktormiut, then called the Copper Eskimos.
The Kilusiktormiut preferred to use the glossy caribou skins for both inner and outer layers. Men and women cooperated to produce these fine garments. An Inuit seamstress spent over a month to make enough sets of clothing for her family to last the year.