Sewing in Arviat: Inuit Women’s Work Through Stories and Parkas

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Creator: 

Williamson, Christina

Date: 

2022

Abstract: 

Sewing has long been a core part of Inuit women's land-based labour in Arviat, Nunavut. The objects that Inuit women produce by sewing, such as parkas, embody their responses to and perspectives of colonialism and the entrenchment of the capitalist economy in their communities. This dissertation takes an interdisciplinary approach using archival records and photographs, museums objects, interviews with seamstresses and experiential learning. In this project, gendered work is inherently connected to gendered knowledge. The amauti, a women's parka with a pouch to carry small children is useful for understanding both work and knowledge because it is a tool for women's work, while also serving as a conceptual lens through which to discuss Inuit women's knowledge transmission. I use methodologies developed in material culture studies to carefully develop three case studies to trace Inuit women's labour through three sewing mediums. The first case study uses caribou skin parka designs to examine women's responses to shifting patterns of subsistence and contact with First Nations and Qallunaat. This chapter argues that changes in caribou skin parka designs embody Inuit women's work as they render changes in their designs to respond to changes in their worlds, thereby enabling the continued work of all family members. Ann Meekitijuk Hanson's concept of Inuktization underpins the next two chapters. One examines the use of trade commodity beads, to centre the decisions of Inuit seamstresses as they undertake the physical and intellectual labour that resulted in beadwork that reflects Inuit aesthetics and worldviews. In the final case study, I argue that the shift to fabric parka sewing in the twentieth century demonstrates that sewing remains a significant part of women's work in the mixed economy of Arviat. Inuit women Inuktized fabric into something that suited their needs despite the deprivations caused by colonial policies. The findings of this project foreground Inuit women's work in historical records by centring the sewn objects that women make; they use their knowledge and skills to create a distinctly Inuit modernity.

Subject: 

Native American Studies
Women's Studies
Art History

Language: 

English

Publisher: 

Carleton University

Contributor: 

Copyright: 
n/a American Museum of Natural History
Copyright: 
Jack Butler
Copyright: 
n/a Canadian Museum of History
Copyright: 
Gene Chovin
Copyright: 
n/a Costume Museum of Canada
Copyright: 
Fischer Library
Copyright: 
Archives Hudson's Bay Company
copyright: 
Canada Library Archives
Copyright: 
n/a Manitoba Museum
Copyright: 
n/a McCord Museum
Copyright: 
n/a Mystic Seaport Museum
Copyright: 
n/a National Museum of Denmark
Copyright: 
n/a University of Anchorage Archives
copyright: 
n/a Manitoba Museum (2)
copyright: 
n/a University of Manitoba Archives
copyright: 
n/a Waddington's Auction

Thesis Degree Name: 

Doctor of Philosophy: 
Ph.D.

Thesis Degree Level: 

Doctoral

Thesis Degree Discipline: 

Cultural Mediations

Parent Collection: 

Theses and Dissertations

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