The Arctic is inhabited by several Inuit groups from Quebec to Alaska and beyond. The Inuit migration in America is distinct from that of other aboriginal groups. The first groups called Paleoesquimo arrived in Quebec around 4,000 years ago from the western Arctic in search of game. Settling on the coasts, they hunted both land and marine mammals such as seal and caribou. Then around 1,000 years ago, these groups disappeared following a new migration from the western Arctic. These newcomers called Thule were large sea mammal hunters that possessed a technology adapted to marine resources. They are the ancestors of the present day Inuit who occupied the tundra as nomadic hunter-gatherers until the arrival of Europeans. In this cold environment where vegetation is minimal, animal resources were of vital importance.

Tupik model

Materials: wood, stone, leather

Size: 6 x 6 inches

In Quebec, the Inuit built two types of dwellings depending on the season. In the summer, they lived in a tupik made from wooden poles covered by caribou hides sewn together and  pined to the ground with stones. In the winter, they built an igloo with snow blocks cut from the ground and raised in a spiral to form a semi-underground dome for a family of 3 to 5 people.

Snow goggles

Materials: wood, plant fibre

Size: 5 inches

Snow goggles were an important technology for hunters and travellers. They protected the eyes from the intense reflection of the sun on snow and ice which could otherwise lead to temporary blindness.

Thimble

Materials: bone

Size: 1 inch

Sewing tools were essential to making hide clothes. Tanning is not possible in Arctic conditions because of a lack of fuel so skins were scraped and chewed by women to soften them. The thimble made sewing easier by protecting the fingers.

Bullroarer

Materials: wood, plant fibre

Size: 8 ½ inches

The bullroarer is one of the most ancient sound instruments. It exists in many cultures and has many uses. Among the Inuit, they were made with antler, bone or wood. It was spun in the air with strong movements to produce a loud vibration.

Fish lure

Materials: bone, soap stone, sinew

Size: 1 inch

Suspended at the end of a line through a hole in the ice, this lure shaped like a fish with articulated fins and a stone sinker was used to attract bigger fish. This line without a hook was dangled to attract fish to the surface and spear them.

Bullroarer

Materials: wood, plant fibre

Size: 8 ½ inches

The bullroarer is one of the most ancient sound instruments. It exists in many cultures and has many uses. Among the Inuit, they were made with antler, bone or wood. It was spun in the air with strong movements to produce a loud vibration.

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Slate knife, microblade knife, scraper

Materials: wood, chert, bone, sinew

Size: 7 inches

This tool from the Dorset (Paleoesquimo) was used for a variety of tasks from butchering to cutting hide.

Adze

Materials: wood, slate, rawhide

Size: 14 inches

Most of the wood in the Arctic came from the logs and branches of conifers carried by ocean currents. Hard stones were not much more abundant so slate was often used to make tools suitable for the available softwoods.

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Ulu

Materials: antler, steel

Size: 6 inches

The ulu (in inuktitut language) is a semi-circular knife known for millenia in various parts of North America. Nowadays, it is mostly known among the Inuit as a woman’s instrument. Prehistoric designs were made of polished slate, metoric iron or native copper but since the introduction of steel traditional materials were replaced while handles remain in antler, bone, ivory or wood.

Miniature kayak

Materials: wood, hide

Size: 12 inches

The kayak is a boat used mainly for hunting that allowed tthe pursuit of seals in the water or cariboo on the shore. La charpente était fabriquée de bois flotté et recouverte de peaux de caribou ou phoque cousues imperméabilisées avec de la graisse. The frame was built from drift wood and covered by seal or caribou hides sewn together with seams waterproofed with fat.

Leister spear

Materials: wood, antler, bone, rawhide

Size: 20 inches

This harpoon was used for group fishing by trapping fish in a pool and spearing them or for individual use by using a lure to attract fish close enough to be  speared.