My goal with this film was to illustrate how the caribou occupied a prominent place in the traditional life of the Inuits of northern Nunavik and in all of Nunavik before the species all but disappeared during the Second World War, or perhaps a little earlier. The virtual disappearance of the caribou meant that the Inuits found them only with great difficulty. They had to travel a great distance towards the forests, where there was a larger type of caribou, the woodland caribou, and some of those caribou migrating into Nunavik, towards the tree line.
About the importance of caribou in the traditional life of northern Nunavik Inuit.
16 mm colour movie (silent)
Director: B. Saladin d’Anglure
Camera: B. Saladin d’Anglure
Shot in Puvirnituq in October 1971
With the assistance of Jimmy Innaarulik Mark, Interpreter, transcriber, translator and filming support from Sylvie Pharand, Masters in anthropology candidate, Université Laval
Inuit participants: Nelly PUTUGUQ, JUANASIALUK, Juanasi (age 6), Maina ALASUAQ, her brother Timothy, Ali the baby and Lili the little girl, Luisa QILURQI, SAUNIQ and Saima (child).
Off-line editing: Philippe Laugrand of audiovisual services at Université Laval, and the film team with the support of the director
Funding: CNRS, Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Museum of Civilization and Département des affaires culturelle du Québec.
An Inuit woman is walking with her child and a dog. The woman is carrying bundled packages on her back, and the dog has packs too.
Director's commentary: So here we see a woman, Niali Putuguq, Putuguq’s wife, Putuguq being Juanasialuk’s younger brother, travelling on foot, accompanied by her pack dog, with its saddlepack, a nangmautik, on its back, and the dog is hauling a tent pole.
With her head and chest band, she carries a bag of rolled caribou skins on her back, and she holds a water bucket. The dog has a packsaddle and a long wooden tent pole attached to his neck.
Director's commentary: In her hand she is carrying this famous waterproof skin bucket (Imirtaqauti) which was made from a piece of an old seal skin which had been used to cover a kayak, a bucket which allows her to fetch water. She is accompanied by her son, who is wearing a little parka with the hair side out, a little warmer garment, a garment meant for winter or the in-between seasons.
(Seen from the front) They arrive at destination and put their things down.
Director's commentary: They are heading inland
An Inuit man, Juanasialuk, is approaching by kayak.
Director's commentary: while the man travels by kayak, paddling up the rivers or lakes when possible and portaging across the sections where he can’t, in which case he carries his kayak over his head and shoulders.
On his kayak, at the front, he carries dried raw skins and a larger bundle of skins at the back of the kayak.
Director's commentary: The man here in the kayak is Juanasialuk. And we can see in front of him some skins that will be used for bedding or to make clothing, dried skins, unworked, and on the back, at least one section of the skin tent made of shaved caribou skin.
The man gets to a pebbled beach. The woman greets him and grabs the tip of the kayak to stabilize the embarcation. He gets off and they pull the kayak further on the beach.
Director's commentary: Here the woman has grabbed the bow of the kayak and is helping Juanasialuk to land it so he can get out; the opening is called the coaming in English and the paa in Inuktitut.
The man, Juanasialuk, is untying something that is not seen.
The woman is wearing a beautiful amauti with coloured beads. She is getting the man’s sealskin hunting bag out of the packages.
Director's commentary: In this scene, on land, we can see the beads, the decorations on the front of her amauti, beads of various colours.
The couple has unfolded the skin tent and is putting it up with vertical and horizontal wood poles.
Director's commentary: They have all sorts of equipment with them. Now we see the caribou skin tent being set up: there are several poles at the front for keeping the front of the tent spread open, a pole for the tent peak, and then the whole tent is held down with rocks.
The woman is cutting caribou skins with an ulu in front of the tent, while the child is watching her. The man gets out of the tent, a cigarette in his hand. He is carrying his hunting bag, strapped on his back. He walks away.
Director's commentary: The man has his sealskin hunting bag, where he keeps his hunting equipment, and is looking for caribou through his telescope for a first hunt.
The woman takes a piece of dry skin and places it on the rocks. The boy is watching her, as she is about to start working on the skin.
Director's commentary: Meanwhile the woman, with her scraper made from caribou bone, a long bone that has been shaped and sharpened, is removing the thin layer of fat under a dried skin to soften it so it can be made into clothing.
A close-up of her hands, working the skin. She is holding a long scraper made of caribou bone, using it to make the skin softer.
Director's commentary: This is a long job, and she starts using the first scraper
Another wider shot of the woman, performing the same activity with another, wider scraper.
Director's commentary: and finishes with a smaller scraper that was often made from a caribou shoulder blade or another bone that was sufficiently wide and sharp to soften properly.
The woman is measuring the man with her hands, and putting the skin on his back and on his front to see the size. It looks like she intends to make a piece of clothing for him.
Director's commentary: Here she is taking her husband’s measurements to be transcribed onto the skin, and cut accordingly.
She is cutting the caribou skin with an ulu, to make the second half a piece of clothing, following the pattern of the folded piece. The boy and the man are standing beside her, observing.
Director's commentary: And so each time she cuts, especially one of the more important pieces like the front or the back of the coat, she checks that it’s the right size. She uses here large ulu to cut the skin to make the adjustment. Here you can see her folding, so that the left and the right side of the garment will be symmetrical.
A shot of a scraper.
Director's commentary: The first one, the long scraper, is what we saw used in the first stage of the process to remove the remaining flesh and dried blood; it is more powerful because it’s narrower. The others, the shoulder blade, and this one made from a piece of caribou antler taken from the thick part of the antler, but most often they would reach for the caribou shoulder blade, which was also used when a baby peed on a skin, to extract the urine. They would use it to push against the hairs, which would squeeze out the liquid. Caribou hair is a hollow hair with very high buoyancy, so it does not get wet all that easily, in the Western world, it was used to fill life buoys because of this buoyancy. And it’s also an excellent insulator against the cold.
A shot of a woman's knife (ulu).
Director's commentary: The big ulu was shaped using a hand saw, which the Inuits obtained from the Whites (they had learned the technique for making these knives). The handle here is made of wood, but in older ulu we see handles made of horn, which was valued, or sometimes ivory.
A shot of another scraper, wider and shorter.
Director's commentary: So there’s the scraper made from a piece of caribou antler. It was used more to soften the skins.
Director's commentary: There’s the pouch filled with fat from a marine mammal.
Shot of a bone container, long and narrow.
Director's commentary: There’s the pouch filled with fat from a marine mammal. There’s the long bone, hollow, as the marrow has been removed, and there’s a small cord, a string, attached to the inside of a piece of skin with its hair, used to stick the bone or ivory needles. I believe it is called a miqrutiqauti, a needle holder.
Close-up of the ivory button on her amauti.
Director's commentary: This here is a sort of ivory button used to attach a strap to the front of the amauti, a strap that passes beneath the pouch for a baby, and which is fastened to the front of the chest, so that the strap passes under the breasts and allows the baby to be securely supported in the amauti. So it’s a kind of clip, but with a small point and then you put a loop around it, like this.
A close-up of the woman's hands, cutting the caribou skin with an ulu.
The woman is taking sinew out of a sewing bag made of loon skin. She is separating the threads, taking some and putting the rest back into the bag. She moistens the thread with her saliva and separates it even more until she gets a thin strand.
Director's commentary: Here we see the procedure where the tendons are removed from a loon’s skin, often the greater loon, tuulliq. The filaments of the tendons are extracted and separated into threads.
A close-up of the woman's hands, picking a tool from a sealskin bag. She pulls out a bone needle case and a needle.
Director's commentary: So here we see her getting out her little needle case and you can see, slipped into a piece of skin, there is a needle made of bone or ivory or in this period, metal. So she has moistened the end of the thread with saliva and is threading it through the eye of the needle. Then she gets out her little pouch full of grease and pulls the thread through it.
A close-up of the woman's hands, threading a needle.
The woman takes another tool from her sealskin bag. She uses it to straighten the threads. She is sitting inside the skin tent.
A close-up of the same action.
Director's commentary: In these close-ups, we can clearly see the pewter pendants she is going to be helping make later.
The woman is sitting inside the tent and handles the cut pieces of caribou skin. She starts assembling the shoulders of the qullitaq.
Director's commentary: Now she’s starting to sew, first assembling the front and back of the man’s coat. She’s using a metal thimble here, but I think we will soon see some traditional thimbles made from shaved bearded seal.
A close-up of her hands, sewing the shoulders. She is wearing a metal thimble on her index.
Director's commentary: Notice the sewing technique, how she always pulls the needle towards herself. And the thread has been moistened with fat so that it glides easily, which will produce a very good seam.
A wider shot of the woman, sewing. The bead work on her amauti is visible in the image.
A still, close-up shot of two pieces of skin sewn together, showing the threads. It looks like the opening of the tent.
Director's commentary: This is the top of the tent, where the two pieces have been laced together with a thong, and the seams have been solidly sewn to withstand tension from the tent and stay firmly in place. And you can see that these tents were completely translucent, which in summertime, gave good light. The seams of these tents have double seams to make them completely watertight against the rain.
A still, close-up shot inside of the tent. Focus is on the texture of the skin tent.
A close-up of caribou fur. Focus is on the texture of the hair.
The woman is working on the clothing, assembling the arm to the body, chewing it with her teeth.
Director's commentary: Now back to the sewing of the man’s coat: once the front and back have been sewn together, the sleeves have to be attached. Notice how she always uses her teeth on the part where she’s going to put her needle, biting down to crush the skin a little with a bit of saliva to moisten it, which makes it easier to push the needle through. It was always said that for the Inuit, both men and women, the teeth and jaw were like a third hand. And so, always, they soften the skin very thoroughly, moisten it, even chew it a bit to crush it, to make the sewing easier.
An extreme close-up of her face and mouth, treating the skin.
A close-up of the woman's face and mouth, chewing the skin.
The woman is sewing the piece of clothing.
A close-up of the woman's face, while she is sewing. She smiles at times, and seems to be saying something.
The woman is sewing inside the tent. We see both sides of the entrance, and a skin pail behind her. The qullitaq she is working on is taking form.
Director's commentary: Here, we see a woman sewing inside her tent. She is making boots, if I’m not mistaken, the uppers for boots. She is dressed entirely in caribou skins.
The woman is chewing a piece of sealskin, softening it with her teeth.
The woman gets up and puts the rest of the threads inside her sewing bag. During that scene, her clothing is very visible; pants and amauti.
Director's commentary: She is dressed entirely in caribou skins, including her women’s pants, with two horizontal white bands.
The woman is lighting a qulliq (oil lamp) inside of the tent, using a long, wooden stick.
Director's commentary: And there is the qulliq, on a stand made of caribou antler, and the fire poker.
A close-up of her face, talking and smiling, as she is working on the qulliq.
Director's commentary: This woman is Maina, the wife of Davidaluk.
A close-up of the tools and the bullets she will be working with. She picks up the tools; we see her hand entering the frame.
Director's commentary: Here are the tools: the little piece of metal, something like a small ladle with a wooden handle, which will be used to melt the tin over the heat from the qulliq, a mold made of stone, where the liquid tin will be poured, also with a wood handle, and a third item but we can’t quite see all of it…
She is melting the bullets in a kind of ladle, over the flame of the qulliq.
Director's commentary: ... And these are the bullets, the lead projectiles from the cartridges for a .22 long rifle, which can be used the same way as tin.
Shot of the tools on the loon bag, and also of the lower part of her amauti, which has two lines of lead beads. She takes one of the tools and warms it on the small fire.
Director's commentary: And this is a sort of pin which fits into the mold, you can see a little transverse shape near the round mouth of the mold, and she place the pin so that it will make a hole in the tin bead, so that it can be attached to the bottom of the coat.
She puts a metal wire across the mold.
Director's commentary: So she places the pin.
Director's commentary: She puts on a little fat ... She greases the mold well so that the bead will release from the stone. She uses fat from the qulliq. Now she is pouring the liquid lead.
A close-up of her, pouring small drops of the liquid lead in the hole of the tool (mold). First, she puts lead with a stick.
She pours from the ladle.
A bead has formed (out of the liquid). She takes the needle out of the tool and shakes the bead out of the mold.
Director's commentary: The pin has remained in place. She removes little bits of debris, and voilà, she has her tin bead, her pendant.
A still shot of the tool, the bullets, and the bead. A second shot later, showing another mold with two openings; one for a bead, one for a fish shape; and several newly made beads.
Director's commentary: Here we see different items that were melted and cast in soapstone molds. We can see two molds so she can make two kinds of lead beads.
The woman is sewing the freshly made beads onto the border of a skin clothing (leather). She is using a huge, metal needle.
A still shot of the finished decoration, with round beads, fish shape and a half spoon.
Director's commentary: And then pieces of a tin spoon that she has added to the front panel as decoration, to add some weight and which might sometimes jingle like little bells.
The woman is sewing a line of beads on the qullitaq. We can see her own amauti, the side of the skin tent, her sewing bag, and the qullliq at her side.
Director's commentary: This is Maina here, the wife of Davidaluk.
A woman, a man, and a boy are walking through blowing snow, carrying their luggage on a small sled. Their clothing is different, eider duck skin.
They continue walking through the snowy landscape, across boulders, until they reach a skin tent. Another Inuit family, man, woman and two children, gets out of the tent and greets them. They shake hands.
Director's commentary: And here we have some Inuits coming from the Belcher Islands, where Maina is from. Her grandfather Aqksapa was an islander and lived a good part of his life in the Belcher Islands. These people are wearing parkas made of eider duck skin, both the men and women. You can see that for the woman, the hood is part of her inner coat, which has the feathers inside. The hood is worn outside the outer coat, which forms the second layer and has the feathers on the outside, but which has no hood. The panels of the inner coat on the Belcher Islands were made of dog skins, because bird skins would have been too fragile. They are hauling a small sled with minimal baggage, and are coming to see people on the Nunavut coast.
Director's commentary: We can see a child in its winter suit, a one-piece outfit, often with mittens attached and then with sort of little boots attached to make it all one piece.
Both Inuit families gather around the sled. They unpack it together and bring the luggage inside the tent.
Director's commentary: There’s a second child, a little older, whom we saw earlier, wearing his caribou clothing. So this is the winter coat for a male, with the white border at the bottom of the coats of a father and his little boy. And they are greeting their cousins who have come from the Belcher Islands. They are related; the people of the Belcher Islands descend from many families from northwestern Nunavik.
Director's commentary: It’s the hood from the Belcher Islands that is different. The hood stops at the pouch. The woman’s hood that we see here is part of the inner coat. So she can put her child under her hood and right into the pouch on her back. I said just before that there was no back pouch, but when you look at this, you can see that it is only the hood that does not have two layers while the one on the right has a big hood made of caribou skin. The man from the Belchers, he has a hood on his bird skin winter coat.
The two men carry the empty sled and put it upside down on top of round stones, just besides the tent.
Director's commentary: They unfasten their small load, their baggage, which had been securely tied to their little sled. And they have blankets, if I’m not mistaken, that are made of bird skin too. Or possibly of dog skin. So here we can see the two tails, which for the Belchers people have no lining, as well as the woman’s hood. And we can see that the child’s one-piece is split in the middle, so he can relieve himself by squatting.