The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
Anonyme - Anonymous
Inuit: Inuinnaq (Kilusiktormiut)
1900-1930, 20th century
Caribou and weasel fur, caribou skin, ptarmigan skin, beak and claws, sinew, glass beads, metal beads
63 x 103 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Amauti (9)
Keys to History
This young girl's outfit incorporates symbols signifying her coming role as a wife and mother, and intended to protect both her and her future children. Amulets are suspended on the back of this amauti. There is a slight expansion, as well, on the back that symbolizes a full-sized amaut, or baby pouch. Traditionally, three amulets would be placed across the back of a woman's parka to help her acquire the characteristics and power of certain animals. This amauti has two amulets (a third one is missing): the middle one consists of a young ptarmigan wrapped in a caribou leg skin, head and claws showing at either end. On the left side of the head, a hat pin (?) topped by an amber-coloured bead has been inserted, possibly to represent an eye. The other amulet is the whole skin of a weasel.
Inuit mothers also placed amulets on their children's clothing to help them grow up to be successful hunters or mothers. The amulets on a girl's amauti made certain that her future sons would have good fortune. According to historic accounts, the ptarmigan provides the properties of speed and endurance as a runner. The weasel gives strength and dexterity. Caribou ears supply sharp hearing and therefore good hunting. The bill of a loon helps the child grow up with keen vision; a bee provides courage; a bone from the seal makes the child a good seal hunter.
These garments are made from the lightweight dark skins of caribou, fur to the outside. The hood is high and shaped by means of concentric arcs. The hood front is shallow, cut close to the face and has a narrow ruff of cream-coloured fur. Part of the mid-back piece is made from the caribou's head: the ears, forehead curls and eye sockets that are now closed by stitching.
The distinctive style of this clothing identifies it as belonging to the Kilusiktormiut, formerly known as the Copper Inuit. Their vast lands encompass both sides of Coronation Gulf.
We do not know when this garment was made. However, by comparing it with examples in other historic collections, it is possible to suggest that it dates to the early 20th century.
A Kilusiktormiut seamstress sewed this amauti and qarliik, probably for her daughter or granddaughter, using age-old precepts and traditions handed down from her forebears.