Posts Tagged 'Arctic'

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.

 

15330293355_b2c610ac6b_o

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: Knife and Sheath

Figure 1    Crooked Knife and Sheath from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
Figure 1 Knife and Sheath from the Ethnology Collection of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

E/1959/7/26
Knife and Sheath
Inuit
North America
Materials: Iron, hide, wood

This particular object is a small curved iron knife approximately 8 3/4 inches in length and 1 1/4 inches in width at its widest point on the wooden handle and resides in the Ethnology Collection at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. According to Museum records, this knife is believed to have come from the North American region and was used by the Inuit.

Figure 2   Map of the Inuit peoples, photo courtesy of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s National Inuit Organization.

Figure 2   Map of the Inuit peoples, photo courtesy of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s National Inuit Organization.

The term “Inuit” refers to native peoples of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions when specific tribal affiliation cannot be determined. Based on research, however, one can see the similarities that this knife shares with quite a few different, regional tribal locations. First, this knife shares a similar form, including a curved blade attached to a straight handle, with the Yupik people. This same knife style, however, was also emulated by a tribe much farther to the southeast, the Tahltan of British Columbia. Second, Native Alaskans made and continue to make many different types of knives. These curved blades are primarily employed in the carving of wood or bone in order to make tools, wearable items, or artwork. A curved, long blade would be much easier to use for carved items because of their ability to make precision cuts, rather than the Ulu knife, which is normally associated with the term “Alaskan knife.” Ulu knives are better suited to chopping and don’t have the carving power of a curved blade, such as the one in the Ethnology Collection would have.

Figure 2    "Inuit Ulu", Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG#/media/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG
Figure 3 “Inuit Ulu”, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG#/media/File:Inuit_Ulu.JPG

The knife in the Ethnology Collection also has a crooked sheath to go with the curved blade. The sheath is made out of leather, although it is unclear what animal hide was used to make the leather. Most similar blades either do not have their original sheath, or the sheath is made from another material such as wood or ivory.

While the specific identification of this knife is unknown, it is without a doubt from the Inuit peoples of the Arctic and Sub-Arctic regions of North America. It also illustrates an excellent example of how the form (the curved blade) of an object can directly relate to the function (precise carving).

[Connor Daggett]

 

Resources:

Museum of Inuit Art:

http://miamuseum.ca

British Museum, Arctic Peoples: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/cultures/the_americas/arctic_peoples.aspx

Canadian Museum of History, First Peoples:

http://www.historymuseum.ca/exhibitions/online-exhibitions/first-peoples

The Dennos Museum Center, Inuit Gallery:

http://www.dennosmuseum.org/exhibitions/inuit/ 

 

 

Object: Harpoon Head

E/48/2/23
Punuk, Alaska, United States of America
Materials: Ivory

This ivory harpoon head comes from the tusk of a walrus, and was made by people of the Punuk Culture, a part of the Thule tradition. It was used for whaling, which is what the Punuk culture is known for. To the Punuk people and its descendants the making of the harpoon and harpoon head was a ceremony in itself. A walrus was only killed for its ivory, and it was as close to a sacred animal as possible to the Punuk people. There were ceremonies to prepare the ivory, after which it was carved very intricately. The carver added his personal mark in order to see which harpooner was the one that had the killing thrust.

The whales which were hunted by the Punuk people were bowhead whales, and the hunt involved the entire family. They assembled in a boat owned by the family and rode along the shoreline waiting for the whales to surface along the ice . When a whale surfaced, they went in for the kill. Cultural and religious beliefs support the use of every single part of the whale. After it has been processed, it goes out to all members of the family.

Many of the indigenous people living within the Arctic Circle practiced whaling, but it was not until the Punuk culture that it became the focus of their society. Some whalebone gravesites show that a particular family could have killed as many as 30 whales in a particular season with a tendency to go for the infant whales.

The modern descendants of the Punuk people still practice whaling using methods similar to those of their ancestors. While it may not be the main source of food anymore due to recent whaling laws, it remains an important part of the cultural lives of the indigenous people of the Arctic Circle.Here is an interesting video that show what happens during a whale hunt.

Work Cited

Alaskan Artifacts.
N.D.  A Brief Overview of the Arctics Cultural Periods. http://www.alaskanartifacts.com/Arctic_Cultural_Periods.html

Fitzhugh, William W. ed J Prusinski
2004 Old Bering Sea Harpoon. Arctic Studies Center.http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/croads/ekven10.html

Hurst Gallery.
1998  Punuk 600-1200 AD. http://www.hurstgallery.com/HG/exhibit/past/artic/punuk.html

[Manuel Marin]


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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