"To make kamiks, you need to know someone who hunts so you can get skins. Fall is a good time for skins."
Sarah Ovatuatia Philip, 1996

Boots Made of Animal Skins

The Inuit - one of Canada's aboriginal peoples - developed footwear in adaptation to the natural environment of the Arctic by utilizing the inherent characteristics of materials from animals. Seal and caribou provide sinew and skins to make clothing and footwear. Even today traditional, hand-made, Inuit boots known as 'kamiks' are essential for survival in the extreme cold of the Arctic.

“We hunt caribou on the coast or inland, depending on the season. There are lots of harp seals migrating along the rocky Labrador coast. We use the skins in our kamiks.”
Beatrice Watts, North West River, 1995

“Seals are used for food, clothing, and tools. Their blubber was burned for light and heat. We show respect to the spirit of the seal by offering dead seals a drink of water.”
Qapik Attagutsiak, Arctic Bay, 1984

Other Natural Materials

These boots demonstrate an unusual use of materials available in the environment. The seal skin kamiks are a reddish brown colour because the bleached skin has been smeared with boiled alder bark. The caribou kamiks are decorated with dog skin leg shafts. In the 19th century, when caribou became scarce in places like Belcher Island, the Inuit made footwear from eider duck skin.
The Bata Shoe Museum

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