Bill Hillman's 
EduTech Research Project
John Tyman's
INUIT ~ People of the Arctic
Back to Main Navigation Page
 Part 1: Winter Clothing
For Full-Screen Images
1. For survival here in winter, caribou skin (with hollow hair)
is still the best protection. Most clothes are still home-made,
from the skins of animals killed for food, 
though modifications have been made of late.
The fringe at the bottom keeps the wind out.
2. The most basic item is the parka -- 
the heavy outer jacket with the fur facing outwards. 
A second jacket, of the same fur, 
was traditionally worn beneath it (the atigi) 
with the fur facing inwards; but this is sometimes replaced now 
(as here) by a lining of duffle, or a padded jacket from the store..

3. Frozen breath commonly encrusts the hood of the parka. 
Where wolverine fur is available 
it may be used to trim the hood since it repels moisture.


4. When engaged in physical activity
(in this case cutting a hole through the ice with a chisel)
hunters usually remove their heavy fur parka and 
substitute a store-bought padded jacket to avoid over-heating and sweat
-- which can lead to frozen clothing, 
a dramatic reduction in insulation, frostbite and death..

5. Short knee-length trousers of caribou skin 
(two layers traditionally) covered the legs. 
These belong to a young boy -- and have elastic braces.
6. Trousers, too, are changing. 
Hunters (shown here dragging a dead seal from a breathing hole) 
sometimes wear padded trousers today, from army surplus stores..

7. Boots (or kamiks) for winter were also made of caribou skin.
There were, again, two (sometimes three) layers usually. 
The first, comparable to leggings, is worn with the fur facing the skin
under the trousers (with no socks as they soak up sweat).


8. The second boot, with the fur facing out,
extends from the foot to the knee. 
These are made from the leg fur of the caribou, 
but the foot is now made from sheepskin, 
purchased from the store. 
The wool faces inwards, 
but a separate piece of sheepskin is sewn to the sole 
-- providing traction as well as additional insulation..

9. A third boot, actually an overshoe, is also worn sometimes. 
These ones are waterproof (made of sealskin) 
and worn as protection 
when hunting in early winter on the edge of the ice.
10. These newly made boots illustrate the use of sheepskin
in combination with caribou fur. 
The ties at the top (worn just below the knee) are now braided
from wool, and serve to keep the snow out..

11. Around town in winter you'll encounter
a wide variety of footwear, 
but none of the boots shown here 
would protect you from frostbite if you were out hunting.
12. Hands are protected by thick mitts/mittens 
with long cuffs to overlap the sleeves of the parka. 
Sheepskin is commonly used today; sometimes husky fur
(which is similarly thick and warm)..

13. Woman's parka. Because women now spend the winter in town, 
while the men hunt without them, few women now bother
making caribou skin parkas for themselves. 
If made they are more likely to be used in spring
than in the dead of winter, 
and are usually worn without a heavy lining
(just store-bought garments beneath).
14. Decorative parkas like this 
(made as a special gift for a young mother) 
are rarely seen today.
With space for a baby at the back,
it has a large hood to cover both mother and child..


15. The pouch for the baby is termed an amaut and the parka an amautik or,
in English, a packing parka -- since it is used to pack/carry around a child.


16. More often today packing parkas are made on sewing machines 
using manufactured cloth trimmed with bias binding and the like, 
with straps made of finger-woven wool. 
The strap on the front is pulled down on to help 
reduce the weight on the shoulders, 
and there is a strap round the waist
to stop the baby slipping down the mother's back..

17. Children sometimes are still dressed in caribou skin in early spring, 
with hoods trimmed with wolf fur to keep the wind from their cheeks.
18. More often, though, they dress today in ready-made store-bought goods, 
peeling off layers as the weather warms up.

19. When not in use, furs are stored in a cool shed beside the house. 
If kept inside, with high temperatures and very low humidities
(because of the forced air furnaces) they deteriorate quickly.
20. On sunny days though, in spring especially, 
they will be brought out for an airing.

21. Boots which have been in storage tend to stiffen 
and need to be softened up 
at the start of a new season, and restored to their proper shape. 
This is still sometimes done by chewing, but ...
22. They can also be stretched using bone and metal scrapers.


23. With the approach of winter, 
clothing is checked over 
and sometimes even remodelled to fit a different
(or older) person.
In this case the uppers have been separated from the foot, and ...
24. Additional strips of skin cut out and 
added to the boot to accomodate larger feet.


25. When parkas are made from store-bought fabrics
the outer layer is pretty-well windproof
(even "Goertex" is available at a price) 
and the lining made of woollen duffle 
which may be removed on warm days
(when the outer covering is worn over a skirt and blouse or jeans etc.).
26. Until recently animal sinew 
(obtained from the back muscle of the caribou) 
was used as thread. Shrinking 
when wet it was particularly suitable for waterproof gear.


27. Today, though, the store stocks a wide range of 
decorative trimmings and threads
-- including fake sinew made from synthetics.
28. Tanned animal skins and artificial furs can be bought there too. 
They are easier to work with than raw skins and last much longer..

29. The store (either "the 'Bay" or the Co-op) is also the source of
the wool used for the finger-woven straps needed for packing parkas.

Dr. John Tyman
I. Environment:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
II. Food Sources: 
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
III: Clothing/Shelter:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
IV. Family: 
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
V. Community:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Text, photos and recordings by John Tyman
Intended for Educational Use Only.
Copyright Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University, 2010.
Contact Dr. John Tyman for more information regarding licensing.

Photo processing, Web page layout, and formatting by
William Hillman | www.hillmanweb.com
Assistant Professor ~ Faculty of Education ~ Brandon University ~ Brandon, Manitoba ~ Canada