The Art and Technique of Inuit Clothing
Anonyme - Anonymous
Western Arctic or Central Arctic
Inuit: Kivalliq Inuit; Inuvialuit
1900-1930, 20th century
Caribou fur, bear fur, stroud, sinew
75 x 9 x 28 cm
Gift of Mrs. Walter Molson
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Boots (23)
The juxtaposition of light and dark fur and the insertion of coloured wool into the seams show the artistry of the seamtress. The fur of the bearskin sole points forward to catch in the snow and give the wearer a sure grip when going downhill.
Keys to History
Inuit women's footwear was very distinctive. The early explorers of Canada were greatly enchanted by the women's hip-high, wide boots and stockings. No longer made, they are described in early writings and represented in images and in museum collections. Another kind of footgear for women had qajjuk, closed side pouches used to store small items for sewing or diaper material.
These boots are made of lightweight caribou hide and bearskin, fur to the outside, and are sewn with sinew. They curve high over the hip ending with a thong that tucks into the trousers. Between the instep and the bearskin sole is a band of pukiq, white fur from the caribou underbelly, followed by a band of dark brown caribou fur, all with the fur flow forward. The fur catches in the snow, prevents the boot from sliding and gives the wearer a sure footing.
These elaborately constructed woman's boots showcase the technical and aesthetic skills of the Inuit. The tops of the boots are designed to give width over the hips and to enhance the appearance by juxtaposing light and dark skins. The seamstress has also inserted narrow strips of stroud of many hues into the seams and at times has used pukiq.
The boots were collected at Qurluqtuuq (Coppermine) or Paulatuuq (Paulatuk), in the Western Arctic. In both places Inuit women wore boots that expanded over the hip and tucked into the trousers.
These boots were donated to the McCord Museum in 1931 by Mr. Percy Noad. They were probably made sometime prior to that date. It was in the first quarter of the 20th century that trading ships from Alaska and Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island) penetrated the area, making foreign materials available.
The Kivalliq Inuit live in territories that border in the west on Yukon, Nunavut, and on the lands of the Inuvialuit.