The Life of the Inupiaq People

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  • Topic: Art, Eskimo, Inuit
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  • Published : December 5, 2012
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Inupiaq Art
ANS 365

Inupiaq Art

The Inupiaq people, or Eskimo people are from the far northern coast of Alaska. They inhabited a wide range of land, about 6,000 miles, but were all still connected through common language, facial construction, and loosely through their culture base (Fitzhugh). The primary food source and activities for the Eskimo people was hunting sea creatures such as whale, sea lion, seals, and walrus. Most of the first art forms were decoration on the harpoons/darts used for hunting. There were winged things that were added onto the back end of the spear to act as a counterbalance as well as decoration (Smelter). While the winged objects were skillfully carved, they disappeared after a short time, and were only found in cemeteries. Another form of art on the harpoon/dart was the head of the piece. Eskimo were believed to be the first to have a toggling dart head, which allowed for easy attachment of a float to the animal. Not only were these harpoon heads highly functional, there were also skillfully carved just as the winged counterbalances. All in all, the harpoon/dart was a piece of art in it's own right.

Eskimo women also had their own form of functional art as well. It was the Eskimos that introduced the woman’s knife, or ulu into Alaska. The ulu was multifunctional as well as decorative. Just as the harpoon/dart was art for the men, most of what the women worked with was artful. From their needle cases to their tools for making clothes, all of it was embellished in some way (Smelter).

Before contact, Eskimo art was functional first, and embellished later. Everything from harpoon heads, to bucket hands, line weights, to needle cases, were covered in carvings. It wasn't until after contact that Eskimo art changed into something aesthetically pleasing first with some use being able to be derived from it. Instead of carved ivory every day tools, Eskimos started to make baskets, ivory figurines, and cribbage...
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