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Maker Once Known
Model Umiak with two figures Model Umiak with two figures
Late 19th/early 20th century Late 19th/early 20th century

Ever since the arrival of European whalers, traders and explorers in the Arctic, the Inuit have been trading and gifting clothing, household goods, dolls, toys, and small carvings. Over time, this practice evolved into what is now a tourist market for hand-made souvenirs. Ivory miniatures and tiny wooden models were particularly common throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and functioned as souvenir, curio, ethnographic artifact, cultural ambassador, and record of history. Some were carved in anticipation of the next missionary or whaling expedition, while others were commissioned by enterprising ethnographers.

This model is of a umiak, or Inuit skin boat that was used since Thule times for either whale hunting, or moving people to seasonal camps in summer. While only two figures appear in this boat, umiaks could vary in size and fit up to twenty people. This model is constructed much like the real object, with skin covering a wooden or bone frame; materials which remained light and therefore easy to carry. The central pole may have held a sail, although umiaks were predominantly rowed by hand. The use of umiaks has since declined due to the whale shortages after the end of the whaling industry, as well as the permanent settlement of Inuit people mid-century.

Maker Once Known
Model Umiak with two figures Model Umiak with two figures
Late 19th/early 20th century Late 19th/early 20th century
Wood, seal ? skin, sinew Wood, seal ? skin, sinew
24.6 x 33.0 x 17.8 cm
Gift of Guardian Capital Group Limited, 2020 Gift of Guardian Capital Group Limited, 2020
63-015.56

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