The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
Anonyme - Anonymous
1909-1910, 20th century
Sealskin, seal fur, sinew, cotton thread, dyes from tree-bark and minerals
23 x 10 x 22 cm
Gift of the Canadian Guild of Crafts
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Boots (23)
Keys to History
The design of these boots from Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) shows a distinctive pattern that is found in the Eastern and Western Arctic, but not in between. The pattern has two pieces, the upper and the sole, with a third piece to form the cuff. One seam of the upper runs down the mid-centre of the boot front and then diagonally across one side of the instep to the outer edge - left if the left foot, right if the right - of the sole.
Boots with the same seam configuration from the Thule era, dated 1150-1350 CE, were found on the floor of a winter dwelling on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut. Is it possible that some of the boots worn by the Thule culture bearers on their journey across the Arctic from Alaska to Kalaallit Nunaat had this pattern?
These short boots, probably for a girl, are made of depilated sealskin and sewn with sinew. The upper is made of white, freeze-dried, sealskin. The lower part of the cuff is decorated with an appliquéd skin mosaic (avitat). The sole comes up the sides of the foot, is pleated at toe and heel and has a layer of fur on the inside. The boot liners, or stockings, are made of tanned sealskin with the fur to the inside.
Christian Leden (1882-1957), the Norwegian anthropologist who collected the boots, probably obtained them in West Kalaallit Nunaat. Leden went to Kalaallit Nunaat in 1909 to record music and songs as well as to film the Inuit.
These boots were collected in 1909; however, the Kalaallit still use this pattern to make waterproof sealskin boots.
Short white or red-dyed sealskin boots were worn exclusively by Kalaallit women. By examining historic photographs we know that the colour white was favoured by young women, and red was more frequently seen among elder women.