Link to Teacher's Resources for online exhibition Our Boots

Canadian Inuit

Anthropologists divide the Canadian Inuit into eight cultural groups: Iglulik, Baffinland, Labrador, Ungava, Caribou, Netsilik, Copper, and Inuvialuit Inuit. Each group has distinct traditions and styles of clothing, yet all share the common goal of survival and harmony in an extremely harsh environment.

Because the Arctic can be dangerously cold, protective clothing and footwear plays a vital role in Inuit life and culture. Designs and construction methods may vary from group to group. Women make all footwear and clothing, and skills are passed from mother to daughter.

Boots, called kamiks, are usually made from sealskin but may incorporate the skin or fur of caribou, arctic fox and hare, wolf, polar bear, or other animals. Fur or felt textile socks are worn on the inside of kamiks for extra warmth. Boots were traditionally sewn with sinew made from the back or leg tendons of animals, such as caribou, although today many modern materials are used. Embellishment might include applique, embroidery, or fur cut–outs, and designs are often symbolic.

For conservation reasons, and in order to show more variety over time, only a selection of footwear from the permanent collection is displayed in our exhibitions at any one time. This means there's always something new to see.

image of Canadian Inuit footwear