by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
The word which we pronounce igloo is the Inuit term for house or home. Any igloo is the kind of home Inuit have around the world. Each year a family has three homes which are a winter home, a summer tent, and another shelter which might be merely an overturned skin boat. The Inuit in the Canadian Arctic make their winter homes from snowblocks which they cut out of fresh snow drifts. They make the blocks shape so they will fit the dome or igloo. First of all on the inside opposite the door is a sleeping bench (or shelf) which they sleep on. Inuit also sit on the shelf to talk and work. On the other half is the storage which is on both sides. In the middle is the end of the passage way that goes out. The passage is three feet high and sometimes the floor the floor is covered with drift wood planks. In Alaska igloos were unknown except for a night camping. Visitors often announced themselves by climbing up the sloping roof and calling through the skylight. The sky light is a hole in the roof to let smoke out. The skylight was covered with furs.
2. Household Furnishings
Inside the chief piece of furniture use is the sleeping bench which I have already told you about. Yet there is still one more thing. The sleeping bench was covered with moth and heather and then with a long caribou rug made of many furs sewn together. Often in the igloo people would take of their upper clothes and the warmth of their naket bodys helped to heat the room. The long passage way made the igloo almost airtight. If there was any drift wood to be had there would be a small cooking fire. All these were some of the thing which helped to keep the igloo warm. The lamp gave the rest of the heat. The lamp was often used for cooking. The kind of lamp that was of a kind used for thousands of years Eurasian. The way this lamp was made is that they would use a shallow dish filled with oil in which the wick floated. The Inuit used seal blubber and a lump of moss. The seal skin was chewed into rope shape by the women.
These are the tools the Inuit used and how. Baleen is part of the whale which when cut in strips was like wire. The Inuit used it like wire for fastening and mending. With the Balleen strips they rigged up something like a stove with the lamp beneath it, then the cooking pot, then a wooden rack like a stove top where mittens and socks could be dried. The women might have a clay pot, some wooden trays, and some buckets of baleen sewed in cylinder shape with baleen as thread. One basket had to be kept for fresh snow water to drink and another for the family urine. This was never thrown away as it was used to tan skins. The tools all women used are a caribou shoulder bone for seeping the floor, a hollow bone for holding liuquid and, above all, here ulu or womens knife, used for cooking, skin dressing, and sewing. The knife was made of slate, in half moon shape, with fine ground edge and upright handle. A Inuit women could be proud the ulu (or womens knife) which she used a lot.
4. Meals and Leisure
When the barking of the dogs told the house wife that her husband was home from hunting she took the meat from the pot on a wooden tray for him. When the house wife had meat for super, she would squize the blood out of meat then she would poor the blood from the meet in to the water pot for a broth for desert. She would then take the super to the club house if the clubhouse was open. If not she listened to hear him shake the snow from his parka so that the snow would melt in the room. Then the husband took off the parka which she looked over for rips that had to be mended before the next day. The meat was stored in the Inuit pantry. This was a outside platform tall enough so that the dogs could not leap up to it. Here meat would keep excellently in cold wheather. Since the Inuit eats lots of meat so you would think that they get any vitamins but they do.
Since the Arctic is cold all year around so that the Inuit have to dress warmly. They also did it with fur clothes. They had warm clothes which kept them nice and warm. The usual material was carbou. The clothes were a loose skirt with hood known today as parka and trousers, stockings, boots, mittens. In winter two suits were worn, the inner with the fur inside and the outer with the fur outside. This produced an air pocket between the two which made for warmth. The white man was glad to copy it and get rid of soggy woolens. For rainy days, there were water-proof suits made of seal skin which was as impermeable as plastic. Another necessy outdoor article was snow goggles which consisted of a strip of wood with slits for the eyes. Their loss, when the spring sun glared on the snow could mean blindness. Boots are a matter of life or death. The least rip in the boot might let in water resulting in frozen feet and ripling. No party was complete with out a women to cook and mend the clothes. If a mans own wife could not go he would borrow his neighbors.
The most important piece of transportation is a big skin boat which the Inuit called a umiak and we call a whale boat. They used it for whaling during which ten men knelt on the floor and paddled. The captain steered with a big paddle at the rear. The umiak is still used though with an outboard mortor. At night it can be empited and turned on its side making a water proof tent. The owners wife scrapes the hides, then sew them to the frame using a double seam which is nearly water proof. Next is the kayak. The kayak is a one man canoe some ten-feet long and slightly different in every group. The light flexible kayak can turn, twist, and jump through the waves as fast as a porpoise. Lashed to the deck close to the hunter's hand are the harpoon, the bird darts, and the floats he would need. Next is the sled and dog team. For land travel every family had to have a sled and dog team. The sled was made of drift wood pieces lashed together. The runners were pieced together wood or bone and shod with stripe of ivory carefully piled together. A good team was made of five or six dogs, through some Inuit might have two or three.
The Inuit were patient art carvers. Today Inuit have steel tools instead of stone tools. Their carvers are famous for delightful ivory figurines representing whales, walrus, and scenes of daily life. The womens are it chiefly sewing.
Teachers Comments: Excellent content and effort but some pictures should also be your own! VERY GOOD Michael.
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