Archive for the 'sealskin' Category

Object: North American Arctic Coast Dolls

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E/1944/01/115

Parka

Inuit

USA: North American Arctic Coast

  1. 1890

Possible Squirrel Fur, Thread, Gingham Fabric Lining

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E/1959/08/053 a-b

Female and Male Doll

Inuit

USA: North American Arctic Coast

  1. 1920s (?)

Dolls: Carved from Wood, Painted Faces.

Clothing: Caribou Skin, Marten Hide, Rabbit Fur, Thread, and Wooden Soled Boots.

Tools: Woven Basket, Wooden Ladle, Wooden Bow & Arrow

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E/1983/02/001

Doll

Alaskan

North American Arctic Coast: Alaskan

1970s

Leather, Possibly Rabbit or Marten Fur, thread, commercial fabric, beads

This week blog post hosts a variety of dolls and doll items from the North American Arctic coast. This collection of objects shows the medley of style, dress, and make of dolls found within Western Alaskan, Inuit, and coastal communities. The dolls span the time period of 1890-1970s and you will see a great diversity in material and style between these little figures. According to the Canadian Museum of History, peoples in the Northern Arctic have practiced the skill of making dolls for over 2,000 years.

 

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An example of a waterproof gut kayak cover and parka. Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of Denmark. Licensed by CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

Inuit hunters sometimes mounted a small doll to the front of their boats to bring them luck. Additionally, the art of making dolls, as well as their miniature clothing and tools served as a valuable lesson in craft production for children. While it was not uncommon for both men and women to sew in these Northern communities, women typically took the role of tanners and seamstresses in the household. For this reason, it is likely that these dolls were made by women. Additionally, young girls were often included in the process of creating dolls and their accompanying garments. This allowed them to practice their skills at sewing by helping with the craft or observing the process.

The materials used to make dolls range from hides such as sealskin, caribou, and furs. However, dolls also include implements like ivory, wood, human hair, sinew, and even intestine and gut. This was far more than child’s play,  learning and mastering the skill of the waterproof seam and stitch was a life-saving skill in more ways than one. In the icy tundra of the far north, staying warm and dry were vital to staying alive. Learning to work with delicate materials such as waterproof intestine to make a parka needed to be practiced.

The “tunnel stitch” is the technique widely used by the Inuit people for example. This stitch ensures a waterproof seal by leaving the outside hide or layer unpunctured. Another innovation in Inuit and artic fashion was the use of waterproof parkas, bags, kayaks and more. In order to sew and wear intestine or gut garments, they must first be oiled or stored in a moist environment. That may seem counter-productive to creating a waterproof garment, but this ensured that the delicate membrane of the gut stayed malleable and would not tear during the production or wear. To see more details about working with gut and intestine to make waterproof clothing, check out this youtube video which details the process of making a Sanightaaq or ceremonial gut parka.

These lessons in tool and clothing production are seen in nearly every doll, despite the wide variety of materials and styles. Each community had a different approach to doll craft. The examples within the Sam Noble utilize a variety of materials common in doll production from as far and wide as North America, Greenland, and the Arctic coast. Dolls crafted in the arctic regions often implemented wood or ivory as the body of their dolls,  as seen in the examples of E/19598/053a-b.  Traditional and realistic clothing, like the parka (E/1944/01/115)  from the collection, would ornament these figures. Whereas the doll from the 1970s (E/1982/02/001) blends traditional and commercial materials.

While the styles, materials, and means of production for doll creation is as diverse as the communities themselves, they all share and pass down important cultural lessons. They instruct on working with a variety of tools and materials such as sinew, gut, thread, fur, hide, and more recently, the use of steel needles and waxed dental floss. Whatever they are made from, however, the dolls also represent a labor of love, each one taking hours to carefully stitch and craft. Whether a child was gifted one of these dolls, or aided in its production, they represent meaningful hours under the careful instruction of a mother, aunt, or grandmother. Ultimately, at their completion, they stand as a thing of beauty and imagination.

 

Sources and Additional Reading:

“Inuit Dolls from Pre-history to Today.” Canadian Museum of History. https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/dolls/doinu01e.shtml (Accessed April 17, 2018).

 

“Sewing and Decorating Techniques.” The Bata Shoe Museum http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/edu/ViewLoitLo.do;jsessionid=A3A1C4CF884054AA3EB7386AEE0910BA?method=preview&lang=EN&id=22868  (Accessed April 17th, 2018).

 

Bruchac, Margaret. “Baffin Island Inuit Doll: Dressed to Care.” University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. https://www.penn.museum/blog/museum/baffin-island-inuit-doll-dressed-to-care/ (Accessed April 17th, 2018).

 

((Christina J. Naruszewicz))

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]


Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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