One area of Inuit artistic expression during the historic period was
the making of amulets. Before the advent of missionaries, amulets were
part of the people's daily life.
"While the human soul was considered to be powerful and the main
source of all women's and men's strength, inevitably difficulties arose
that could not be resolved by mortals alone. Each Inuk therefore had a
helping spirit or 'familiar,' who aided the hunt and other ventures and
protected the person from sickness and accidents.
The familiar could be embodied in items worn on or in clothing, such
as a carving, animal tooth, claw, or piece of skin, or an unusual objet
trouvé." (Issenman, p. 184)
According to Boas, " the most common varieties of amulets were
the feather of an owl, a bear's tooth, and the like ...
(p. 184). It was often part of the shaman's
responsibilities to make amulets
(Hawkes, p. 130).
In Labrador, a thong of sealskin worn around the wrist was an almost
universal custom. Feet of birds were also common charms
(Hawkes, p. 136).
In the Ungava region, some charms were worn to ward off attacks of
evil-disposed spirits; others served as remembrances of deceased
relatives (Turner, p. 37).
Petitot made specific reference to ivory carvings as amulets in 1876.
He noted that Inuit along the Mackenzie River decorated their dresses
and belts with small ivory animal figurines
(Petitot, p. 7).
Amulet Cluster, 1913 1916
Area around Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut
Length 15 cm
Collected by Danish anthropologist Christian Leden
during his expedition
to the Keewatin from 1913 to 1916
Although Leden lists these as "models of animals and old tools
no longer in use and partially unknown ...," we can assume that the
strung together small carvings were used as amulets before being
bartered to him. He reports having collected the string from the
Threads of the Land: Clothing Traditions from Three Indigenous
Cultures. Canadian Museum of Civilization, Hull, Quebec,
February 2, 1995 to September 14, 1997.
1994 Hall, Judy; Jill Oakes and Sally Qimmiu'naaq
Sanatujjutt: Pride in Women's Work. Copper and Caribou Inuit Clothing
Traditions. Hull: Canadian Museum of Civilization, ill. p. 59.
Ivory Seal, 1912
Aillik Bay, near Hopedale, Labrador
1 x 3.5 cm
Collected by anthropologist Frank Speck while doing fieldwork in Labrador
The hole in the seal's head is an indication that this was used as
an amulet, possibly to bring on success in the seal hunt.
 1964 The Central Eskimo. Reprint, Lincoln:
University of Nebraska Press.
Hawkes, E. W.
1916 Labrador Eskimo. Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau,
(Geological Survey of Canada) Memoir 91; Anthropological Series, No. 14.
Kobayashi Issenman, Betty
1997 Sinews of Survival. Vancouver: UBC Press.
1867 Monographie des Eskimaux Tchiglit. Paris :
 1979 Indians and Eskimos in the Quebec Labrador
Peninsula. Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory.
Quebec: Presses Comiditex.