Fashions of Nunavut

The fashions of Nunavut will be well presented in Vancouver during the Olympics at the Canada`s Northern House.

It has been quite the journey for the Inuit of Nunavut for the last half a century. From being born in an igloo to living in a modernized world, it was challenging at times through this fast transition.

Our fashions were made out of necessity in the beginning. With no stores in site for thousands of miles, Inuit like anyone else made do with what was available to them to survive.

So in the days of old animal skins were the only clothing used in the north through all seasons. Animals were hunted during certain seasons while others were hunted throughout the year.

An example with the caribou skin. The bull`s skin is mainly used for bedding. Then it is dried differently than the ones that will be used for clothing.

The bull skin is dried stretched out so it dries as large as it will go. The bedding set in an igloo or tent are set so the first one touching the ground or snow has the fur down with the skin side up, while the other one that touches your naked skin is fur up. This prevents any dampness to set on the bedding. Then another large bull skin again for the top blanket that has fringes along the edge to trap warm air generated by body heat.

The caribou skins to be used for clothing are skinned and fleshed and dried. The caribou skin that is to become clothing is dried differently from a bedding skin. The skin is dried almost crumpled up. There is no stretching. This is so that when the tanning process begins, as certain steps are taken in softening the skins for clothing. The tanning process takes about two to three days. It also takes a lot of energy to soften skins.

Since the skin was dried not stretched, the first layer of skin is slowly broken with a tool called siirliriyaut (a dull scraper). Once the caribou skin has gone through the first process, it is than dampened all over the skin side, folded in half, than quarter lengthwise, it is then folded into a roll, tied with rope then left overnight with a heavy object to hold it down.

The next day the dampness is evenly spread well on the entire skin.

A different dull stretching tool is used, then a sharp one to scrape off any left over outer skin and a well done skin will turn totally white. Most sewers are very fussy on how the animal is caught and skinned so as not to have any marks one the skin made into clothing.

So this is how things once were done in the Canadian north and is still being done as we still have the coldest climate. Most hunters prefer the traditional hunting clothing for their own safety in our wilderness.

Theresie Tungilik
Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, Canada