Object: Footwear

E/1957/14/1
Baffin Island Inuit: Kamik
Arctic Coast
20th Century
Materials: Sealskin

Kamik, also known as Mukluks, are soft boots used by indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The term Kamik is an Inuktitut word meaning “boots,” while the term Mukluk is a Yupik word meaning “bearded seal.” The boots are made from reindeer skin or sealskin, depending on the use. Traditionally, reindeer skin boots were used in cold, snowy environments because they provided greater warmth than sealskin. Sealskin boots were used in coastal areas (see photo below) where lightweight, breathable footwear was preferred. Kamik would have afforded the wearer mobility and warmth while hunting seal or other coastal wildlife. These Kamik are child-sized boots and measure approximately six inches long and stand seven inches high. The soles are bound by thin, thread-like strips of natural hide. The strips in the binding of the shoe and along the seams of the cuff are painted red. Two strips of hide approximately 12 inches in length are attached to the top of the soles and would have been used to bind the boots around the legs and hold them in place.

These Kamik were made in present day Baffin Island of Northern Canada. Baffin Island is an island in the Arctic Ocean and has a population of 11,000, most of whom are Inuit. It is the fifth largest island in the world and is home to the Auyuittuq National Park. The island is known for several rugged mountain peaks and has become an international mountaineering destination in recent years. It has also been a source of data for monitoring warming trends and global climate change.

[Lauren Simons]

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