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Traditional Eskimo Life
Eskimo clothing
Eskimo women made a wide assortment of clothing, such as the winter garments pictured above.
Women at Work

Like their hunter husbands, Eskimo women performed work that was essential to their families' survival. They prepared food, made clothing and blankets, cared for the children, and kept the home lamps burning.

Preparing animal skins occupied much of a woman's time. First, she skinned the animal with a half-moon-shaped knife, or ulu. Then, using a sharp stone scraper set in an ivory handle, she might work all day softening and cleaning a single skin. Occasionally, if a skin needed further softening the woman soaked, bleached, stretched, or even chewed it.

Once prepared, skins served a variety of purposes. Eskimos made caribou skins into blankets, rugs, and clothing and fashioned the skins and intestines of sea mammals into floats, waterproof garments, tents, boats, and sled covers.

Just as the men had to be good hunters, Eskimo women needed to be expert seamstresses and weavers. Without warm and watertight clothing, their families could easily freeze to death in the harsh Arctic environment.

Eskimo women made a wide assortment of handmade clothing. For the summer season, they made an ensemble of pants and a shirt of lightweight and warm animal skin. They added a caribou skin shirt with hooded parka and a second layer of pants for the winter season. In all seasons, women made skin boots, grass socks, and fur mittens. Every Eskimo man, woman, and child wore these same basic outfits, with only slight variations in style and decoration.


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