The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing

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Parka and trousers
Anonyme - Anonymous
Central Arctic
Inuit: Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
1900-1930, 20th century
Caribou fur, sinew
70 x 154 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Parka and trousers (2)
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Keys to History

This Kilusiktormiut qulittuq and qarliik (parka and trousers), designed to be worn by a man, contains symbols that make visible the liaison between animals and humans who thereby acquire the strength, wisdom and powers of the animal's soul. Inserts and bands made of pukiq - the white fur from a caribou's dewlap (throat) and belly - transform the human's appearance. The dramatic pukiq panels over the chest signal the caribou dewlap under which beats its great heart. Light and dark bands on the man's upper arm signify the arm and shoulder muscles, so important in the hunt that is a joint venture between man and animal.

The edges of the hood, sleeves, waist, back tail and trouser legs are outlined with the white fur. The V-shaped hood root at mid-back ends with a pukiq tuft. According to ethnologist Bernadette Driscoll-Engelstad, this insert is likened to "a stylized animal's tail within the parka's back panel as a metaphoric reference to the wolf, the predatory enemy of the caribou." Through these details, the Inuit show their oneness with, and sometimes visual transformation into, the creatures to which they are bonded. In this way the Inuit thank and show respect for the animals who give them life.

  • What

    This qulittuq and qarliik (parka and trousers) shows a functional excellence of Inuit clothing manufacture that has rarely been equalled. The qulittuq hood, made from the caribou's headskin, fits closely to the face to prevent heat escape and to allow clear vision even if the head is turning. The shoulders are large so that the arms can be drawn inside for warmth and to allow for the hunter's expansive movements.

  • Where

    Certain stylistic elements of this parka and trousers, in particular the spacing of the fringes, suggest that it may have been collected at Nulahugiuq (Bernard Harbour) in the Dolphin and Union Strait area, Nunavut.

  • When

    The Kilusiktormiut remained isolated from non-Inuit until the beginning of the 20th century. This outfit, which dates to around that time, documents a style of clothing that exists now only in museum collections.

  • Who

    Kilusiktormiut men wore garments like these. A man might wear a parka with decorative fringes and large chest panels in the dance-house and for ceremonial occasions.