"In the past, Inuit girls around the age of ten, used to make their
own dolls with the help of an older sister or sister-in-law.
These little dolls, who had no faces, were made mostly of skin, and
had clothing that could be taken off. The doll that was loved above all
the others, had more than one set of clothes.
For the dolls and their clothing, the skin of any animal could be
used: newborn pups, siksiks, weasels and lemmings, as well as the thin
part of birds' necks.
To an Inuit girl, these dolls were most important because by having
to make them herself, she was taught all the traditional sewing
skills skinning an animal, stretching and softening the fur and
cutting and sewing skins into clothing."
Anaoyok Alookee from Taloyoak (Strickler, p.12)
Dolls, originally toys for young girls, became sought-after
collectors' items for visitors to the North during the historic period
of Inuit art. Fully clothed, they reflected the traditional clothing
in any region and thus served perfectly as "models" and
souvenirs for this particular aspect of Inuit material culture. While
dolls for domestic use were artless, dolls made for barter could be
quite elaborate and should be included in any discussion of historic
Eva Strickler/Anaoyok Alookee
1988 Inuit Dolls: Reminders of a Heritage. Toronto:
Canadian Stage and Arts Publications Ltd.
"Eskimo Doll Woman with bag," 1914
East Coast of Labrador
Wood, sealskin, cotton
28 x 11 x 2 cm
Collected by Ernest William Hawkes
during his field trip to Labrador in 1914
Hawkes comments on the dolls which he collected: "They have an
extra ethnological value in reflecting in miniature the dress of the
district from which they come."* The woman with a bag seems to be
almost too perfect to have been a plaything. Today we would call it a
* E. W. Hawkes
1916 The Labrador Eskimo. Ottawa: Government Printing
Bureau, (Geological Survey of Canada) Memoir 91; Anthropological Series,
No. 14. p. 122, ill. p. 231.
Wooden Doll, 1915
Area around Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut
7 x 1.1 x 0.8 cm
Collected by Danish anthropologist Christian Leden during his expedition
to the Keewatin from
1913 to 1916
This doll would have served as a dummy which a little girl would
dress using left-over scraps of caribou skin that her mother did not
need for her own sewing. It originated from the Aivilik.