This is an excerpt from a longer article, published as pages 3-442 of the Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. The official date of the volume is 1887-1888 though it wasn’t actually printed until 1892. This delay is typical of BAE Reports.

Here I’ve included only the section that describes clothing, including pictures and patterns. Disclaimer: The patterns were not very big to start with, and there is no information about measurements. But the PDF versions linked from the pictures should at least give an idea about shapes and cuts.



Naturalist and Observer, International Polar Expedition to
Point Barrow, Alaska, 1881-1883.


Clothing 109
Material 109
Style of dress 110
Head clothing 112
Frocks 113
Mantles 121
Rainfrocks 122
Arm clothing 123
Mittens 123
Gloves 124
Leg and foot clothing 125
Breeches 125
Pantaloons 126
Stockings 129
Boots and shoes 129
Parts of dress 135
Belts 135
Ornaments 138


Some illustrations have labels showing scale: 1/2, 1/3 and so on. What you see may be a little bigger or smaller, depending on your monitor. The ruler shows the size of the printed book.


Man in ordinary deerskin clothes

52. Woman’s hood 111
53. Man’s frock 113

Pattern of man’s deerskin frock


Detail of trimming, skirt and shoulder of man’s frock


Man wearing plain, heavy frock


Man’s frock of mountain sheepskin, front and back


Man’s frock of ermine skins


Pattern of sheepskin frock

*60. Pattern of ermine frock 117

Woman’s frock, front and back

*62. Pattern of woman’s frock 119

Detail of edging, woman’s frock


Details of trimming, woman’s frock

65. Man’s cloak of deerskin 121
*66. Pattern of man’s cloak 121
67. Deerskin mittens 123
68. Deerskin gloves 124

Man’s breeches of deerskin


Pattern of man’s breeches


Trimming of man’s breeches

72. Woman’s pantaloons 127

Patterns of woman’s pantaloons

*74. Pattern of stocking 129
75. Man’s boot of deerskin 131
*76. Pattern of deerskin boot 131

Man’s dress boot of deerskin


Pattern of man’s dress boot of deerskin


Man’s dress boot of skin of mountain sheep


Pair of man’s dress boots of deerskin


Woman’s waterproof sealskin boot


Sketch of “ice-creepers” on boot sole


Man’s belt woven of feathers


Diagram showing method of fastening the ends of feathers in belt


Woman’s belt of wolverine toes




The clothing of these people is as a rule made entirely of skins, though of late years drilling and calico are used for some parts of the dress which will be afterwards described. Petroff203 makes the rather surprising statement that “a large amount of ready-made clothing finds its way into the hands of these people, who wear it in summer, but the excessive cold of winter compels them to resume the fur garments formerly in general use among them.” Fur garments are in as general use at Point Barrow as they ever were, and the cast-off clothing obtained from the ships is mostly packed away in some corner of the iglu. We landed at Cape Smyth not long after the wreck of the Daniel Webster, whose crew had abandoned and given away a great deal of their clothing. During that autumn a good many men and boys wore white men’s coats or shirts in place of the outer frock, especially when working or lounging about the station, but by the next spring these were all packed away and were not resumed again except in rare instances in the summer.

The chief material is the skin of the reindeer, which is used in various stages of pelage. Fine, short-haired summer skins, especially those of does and fawns, are used for making dress garments and underclothes. The heavier skins are used for everyday working clothes, while the heaviest winter skins furnish extra warm jackets for cold weather, warm winter stockings and mittens. The white or spotted skins of the tame Siberian reindeer, obtained from the “Nunatañmiun,” are especially valued for full-dress jackets. We heard no mention of the use of the skin of the unborn reindeer fawn, but there is a kind of dark deerskin used only for edgings, which appears to be that of an exceedingly young deer. This skin is extremely thin, and the hair so short that it is almost invisible. Siberian deerskins can always be recognized by 110 having the flesh side colored red,204 while American-dressed skins are worked soft and rubbed with chalk or gypsum, giving a beautiful white surface like pipe-clayed leather.

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Fig. 51.—Man in ordinary deerskin clothes

The skins of the white mountain sheep, white and blue fox, wolf, dog, ermine, and lynx are sometimes used for clothing, and under jackets made of eider duck skins are rarely used. Sealskin dressed with the hair on is used only for breeches and boots, and for those rarely. Black dressed sealskin—that is, with the epidermis left on and the hair shaved off—is used for waterproof boots, while the white sealskin, tanned in urine, with the epidermis removed, is used for the soles of winter boots. Waterproof boot soles are made of oil-dressed skins of the white whale, bearded seal, walrus, or polar bear. The last material is not usually mentioned as serving for sole leather among the Eskimo. Nordenskiöld,205 however, found it in use among the Chukches for this purpose. It is considered an excellent material for soles at Point Barrow, and is sometimes used to make boat covers, which are beautifully white. Heavy mittens for the winter are made of the fur of the polar bear or of dogskin. Waterproof outer frocks are of seal entrails, split and dried and sewed together. For trimmings are used deerskin of different colors, mountain-sheep skin, and black and white sealskin, wolf, wolverine, and marten fur, and whole ermine skins, as well as red worsted, and occasionally beads.


Dr. Simpson206 gave an excellent general description of the dress of these people, which is the same at the present day. While the same in general pattern as that worn by all other Eskimo, it differs in many details from that worn by the eastern Eskimo,207 and most closely resembles the style in vogue at and near Norton Sound.208 The man’s dress (Fig. 51, from a photograph of Apaidyao) consists of the usual loose hooded frock, without opening except at the neck and wrists. This reaches just over the hips, rarely about to mid-thigh, where it is cut 111 off square, and is usually confined by a girdle at the waist. Under this garment is worn a similar one, usually of lighter skin and sometimes without a hood. The thighs are clad in one or two pairs of tight-fitting knee breeches, confined round the hips by a girdle and usually secured by a drawstring below the knee which ties over the tops of the boots. On the legs and feet are worn, first, a pair of long, deerskin stockings with the hair inside; then slippers of tanned sealskin, in the bottom of which is spread a layer of whalebone shavings, and outside a pair of close-fitting boots, held in place by a string round the ankle, usually reaching above the knee and ending with a rough edge, which is covered by the breeches. Dress boots often end with an ornamental border and a drawstring just below the knee. The boots are of reindeer skin, with white sealskin soles for winter and dry weather, but in summer waterproof boots of black sealskin with soles of white whale skin, etc., are worn. Overshoes of the same material, reaching just above the ankles, with a drawstring at the top and ankle strings, are sometimes worn over the winter boots. When traveling on snowshoes or in soft dry snow the boots are replaced by stockings of the same shape as the under ones, but made of very thick winter deerskins with the flesh side out.

Instead of breeches and boots a man occasionally wears a pair of pantaloons or tight-fitting trousers terminating in shoes such as are worn by the women. Over the usual dress is worn in very cold weather a circular mantle of deerskin, fastened by a thong at the neck—such mantles are nowadays occasionally made of blankets—and in rainy weather both sexes wear the hooded rain frock of seal gut. Of late years both sexes have adopted the habit of wearing over their clothes a loose hoodless frock of cotton cloth, usually bright-colored calico, especially in blustering weather, when it is useful in keeping the drifting snow out of their furs.

Both men and women wear gloves or mittens. These are of deerskin for ordinary use, but in extreme weather mittens of polar bear skin are worn. When hunting in winter it is the custom to wear gloves of thin deerskin under the bearskin mitten, so that the rifle can be handled without touching the bare hand to the cold iron. The women have a common trick of wearing only one mitten, but keeping the other arm withdrawn from the sleeve and inside of the jacket.

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Fig. 52.—Woman’s hood.

The dress of the women consists of two frocks, which differ from those of the men in being continued from the waist in two rather full rounded skirts at the front and back, reaching to or below the knee. A woman’s frock is always distinguished by a sort of rounded bulge or pocket at the nape of the neck (see Fig. 52, from a sketch by the writer), which is intended to receive the head of the infant when carried in the jacket. The little peak at the top of the hood is also characteristic of the 112 woman’s frock. On her legs a woman wears a pair of tight-fitting deerskin pantaloons with the hair next the skin, and outside of these a similar pair made of the skins of deer legs, with the hair out, and having soles of sealskin, but no anklestrings. The outer pantaloons are usually laid aside in spring, and waterproof boots like the men’s, but fastened below the knee with drawstrings, are worn over the under pantaloons. In the summer pantaloons wholly of waterproof sealskin are often put on. The women’s pantaloons, like the men’s breeches, are fastened with a girdle just above the hips. It appears that they do not stay up very well, as the women are continually “hitching” them up and tightening their girdles.

Until they reach manhood the boys wear pantaloons like the women, but their jackets are cut just like those of the men. The dress of the girls is a complete miniature of that of the women, even to the pocket for the child’s head. Those who are well-to-do generally own several complete suits of clothes, and present a neat appearance when not engaged in dirty work. The poorer ones wear one suit on all occasions till it becomes shabby. New clothes are seldom put on till winter.

The outer frock is not often worn in the iglu, being usually taken off before entering the room, and the under one is generally dispensed with. Men habitually leave off their boots in the house, and rarely their stockings and breeches, retaining only a pair of thin deerskin drawers. This custom of stripping in the house has been noticed among all Eskimos whose habits have been described, from Greenland to Siberia. The natives are slow to adopt any modifications in the style of dress, the excellence and convenience of which has been so frequently commented upon that it is unnecessary to refer to it. One or two youths learned from association with us the convenience of pockets, and accordingly had “patch pockets” of cloth sewed on the outside of the skirt of the inner frock, and one young man in 1883 wore a pair of sealskin hip boots, evidently copies from our india-rubber wading boots. I now proceed to the description of the clothing in detail.

Head clothing.—

The only head covering usually worn is the hood of the frock, which reaches to about the middle of the head, the front being covered by the hair. Women who are carrying children in the jacket sometimes wrap the head in a cloth. (I have an indistinct recollection of once seeing a woman with a deerskin hood, but was too busy at the time to make a note or sketch of it.) One man at Utkiavwĭñ (Nägawau´ra, now deceased), who was quite bald on the forehead, used to protect the front of his head with a sort of false front of deerskin, tied round like a fillet. No specimens of any of these articles were obtained. Fancy conical caps are worn in the dances and theatrical performances, but these belong more properly under the head of Games and Pastimes (where they will be described) than under that of Clothing.

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Fig. 53.—Man’s frock.

Frocks (atigĕ).—

Two frocks are always worn by both sexes except in the house, or in warm weather, the inner (ílupa) with the hair next the skin, and the outer (kalûru´rɐ) with the hair out. The outer frock is also sometimes worn with the hair in, especially when it is new and the flesh side clean and white. This side is often ornamented with little tufts of marten fur and stripes of red ocher. The difference in shape between the frocks of the two sexes has been already mentioned. The man’s frock is a loose shirt, not fitted to the body, widening at the bottom, and reaching, when unbelted, just below the hips. The skirts are cut off square or slightly rounded, and are a little longer behind than in front. The hood is rounded, loose around the neck, and fitted in more on the sides than on the nape. The front edge of the hood, when drawn up, comes a little forward of the top of the head and runs round under the chin, covering the ears.

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Fig. 54.—Pattern of man’s deerskin frock.

There are in the collection three specimens, all rather elaborate dress frocks, to be worn outside. All have been worn. No. 56751 [184] (Fig. 53), brown deerskin, will serve as the type. The pattern can best be explained by reference to the accompanying diagrams (Fig. 54). The body consists of two pieces, front and back, each made of the 114 greater part of the skin of a reindeer fawn, with the back in the middle and the sides and belly coming at the edges. The head of the animal is made into the hood, which is continuous with the back. Each sleeve is in two pieces, front and back, of the same shape, which are sewed together along the upper edge, but separated below by the arm flap of the front, which is bent down and inserted like a gusset from the armpit nearly to the wrist. A band of deerskin an inch broad is sewed round the edge of the hood, flesh side out. The trimming consists, first, of a narrow strip of long-haired wolfskin (taken from the middle of the back) sewed to the outer side of the binding of the hood, its ends separated by the chin piece, so that the long hairs form a fringe around the face. Similar strips are sewed round each wrist with the fur inward. The binding round the skirt (Fig. 55a) is 2¼ inches broad. The light-colored strips are clipped mountain sheep skin, the narrow pipings are of the dark brown skin of a very young fawn, the little tags on the second strip are of red worsted and the fringe is of wolverine fur, sewed on with the flesh side, which is colored red, probably with ocher, outward. A band of similar materials, arranged a 115 little differently (Fig. 55b) and 1¼ inches broad, is inserted into the body at each shoulder seam, so that the fringe makes a sort of epaulet. This jacket is 24.5 inches long from the chin to the bottom of the skirt, 21 inches wide across the shoulders, and 24.5 inches wide at the bottom.

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Fig. 55.—Detail of trimming, skirt and shoulder of man’s frock.

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Fig. 56.—Man wearing plain, heavy frock.

Apart from the trimming this is a very simple pattern. There are no seams except those absolutely necessary for producing the shape, and the best part of each skin is brought where it will show most, while the poorer portions are out of sight under the arms.

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Fig. 57.—Man’s frock of mountain sheepskin, front and back.

The chief variation in deerskin frocks is in the trimming. All have the hood fitted to the head and throat, with cheek and throat pieces, and these are invariably white or light colored, even when the frock is made of white Siberian deer skin. When possible the head of the deer is always used for the back of the hood, as Capt. Parry observed to be the custom at Iglulik.209 A plain frock is sometimes used for rough work, hunting, etc. This has no fringe or trimming round the hood, skirt, or wrists, the first being smoothly hemmed or bound with deerskin and the last two left raw-edged. Fig. 56 shows such a jacket, which is often made of very heavy winter deerskin. Most frocks, however, have the border to the hood either of wolf or wolverine skin, in the latter case especially having the end of the strips hanging down like tassels under the chin. The long hairs give a certain amount of protection to the face when walking in the wind.210 Instead of a fringe the hood sometimes has three tufts of fur, one on each side and one above.


Trimmings of edging like that above described, or of plain wolverine fur round the skirts and wrists, are common, and the shoulder straps rather less so. Frocks are sometimes also fringed on the skirts and seams with little strips of deerskin, after what the Point Barrow people called the “Kûñmûdlĭñ” fashion.211 Nearly all the natives wear outer frocks of deerskin, but on great occasions elaborately made garments of other materials are sometimes seen. Nos. 56758 [87] (Fig. 57, a and b) and 56757 [11] (Fig. 58, a and b) are two such frocks. No. 56758 [87] is of mountain sheep skin, nearly white. As shown in the diagrams (Fig. 59, a, b, c,) the general pattern is not unlike the type described, but there are more pieces in the hood and several small gussets are inserted to improve the set of the garment. The trimmings are shoulder straps, and a border round the skirt of edging like that described above, and the seams of the throat pieces are piped with the dark almost hairless deerskin, which sets them off from the rest of the coat. The wrists have narrow borders of wolf fur, and there was a wolfskin fringe to the hood, which was removed before the garment was offered for sale.

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Fig. 58.—Man’s frock of ermine skins, front and back.

No. 56757 [11] is a very handsome garment (Fig. 58). The body and sleeves are of white and brown (winter and summer) ermine skins arranged in an elegant pattern, and the hood of reindeer and mountain sheep skin. This is the only frock seen in which the hood is not fitted to the sides of the throat by curved and pointed throat pieces, after the fashion universal among the western Eskimo, from Cape Bathurst at least to Norton Sound. The pattern of the hood is shown by the diagram 117 (Fig. 60 a). The middle piece is the skin of a reindeer head, the two cheek pieces and median chin piece of mountain sheep skin. When the hood is put together the lower edge of it is sewed to the neck of the body, which has the back and front of nearly the same size and shape (diagram, Fig. 60 b), though the back is a little longer in the skirt. There is no regular seam on the shoulders, where irregular bits of white ermine skin are pieced together so as to fit. From the armpit on each side runs a narrow strip of sheepskin between back and front. The sleeve is a long piece made of three white ermine skins put together lengthwise, doubled above, with a straight strip of sheepskin let in below, and enlarged near the body by two triangular gussets (front and back) let in between the ermine and sheepskin. The wristbands are broad pieces of sheepskin. The skirts are of white ermine skins pieced together irregularly, but the skins composing the front, back, and sleeves are split down the back of the animal and neatly cut into long rectangular pieces, with the feet and tails still attached. They are arranged in a pattern of vertical stripes, two skins fastened together end to end making a stripe, which is the same on the front and the back. There is a brown stripe down the middle, then two white stripes on each side, and a brown stripe on each edge. The hood is bound round the edge with white sheepskin and bordered with wolfskin. There are shoulder straps and a border round the skirt of edging of the usual materials, but slightly different arrangement, and tagged with small red glass beads.

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Fig. 59.—Pattern of sheepskin frock.

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Fig. 60.—Pattern of ermine frock. a, hood; b, body. 118

The former owner of this beautiful frock (since dead) was always very elegantly dressed. His deerskin clothes were always much trimmed, and he owned an elegant frock of foxskins, alternately blue and white, with a hood of deerskin, which we did not succeed in obtaining for the collection. (The “jumper of mixed white and blue fox pelts,” seen by Dr. Kane at Ita,212 must have been like this.)

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Fig. 61.—Woman’s frock, front and back.

The woman’s frock differs from that worn by the men, in the shape of the hood and skirts, as mentioned above, and it is also slightly fitted in to the waist and made to “bag” somewhat in the back, in order to give room for carrying the child. The pattern is considerably different from that of the man’s frock, as will be seen from the description of the type specimen (the only one in the collection), No. 74041 [1791] (Fig. 61, a and b), which is of deerskin. The hood is raised into a little point on top and bulges out into a sort of rounded pocket at the nape. This is a holiday garment, made of strips of skin from the shanks and belly of the reindeer, pieced together so as to make a pattern of alternating 119 light and dark stripes. The pattern is shown in the diagram, Fig. 62. The sleeves are of the same pattern as those of No. 56751 [184]. The edge of the hood is bound with deerskin, hair outwards. Trimming: a strip of edging (Fig. 63) in which the light stripes are clipped white mountain sheepskin, the dark pipings brown, almost hairless, fawnskin, and the tags red worsted, is inserted in the seam between 7 on each side and 6 and 2, and a similar strip between the inner edge of 3, 2, 7, 9, and 1. A broader strip of similar insertion, fringed below with marten fur, with the flesh side out and colored red, runs along the short seam ffff. The seam between 9 and 7 has a narrow piping of thin brown deerskin, tagged with red worsted. A strip of edging, without tags and fringed with marten fur (Fig. 64), is inserted in the seam gggg. The border of the skirt is 1 inch wide (Fig. 64). The dark stripe is brown deerskin, the white, mountain sheep, and the fur, marten, with the red flesh side out. The fringes are double strips of white deerskin sewed to the inside of the last seam, about 3 inches apart. The shoulder straps are of edging like that at g, but have the fur sewed on so as to show the red flesh side. The hood has a fringe of wolfskin sewed to the outside of the binding. This frock measures 45 inches in the back, 32 in the front, 19 across the shoulders, and 17 at the waist. The skirts are 21 inches wide, the front 18, and the back 20 inches long. The pieces 7, 8, and 9 of the hood are white. This is an unusually handsome garment.

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Fig. 63.—Detail of edging, woman’s frock.

Deerskin garments rarely have the ornamental piecing seen in this frock. Each one of the numbered parts of the pattern is generally in one piece. The pieces 8 and 9 are almost universally white, and 7 is often so. About the same variety in material and trimming is to be found as in the men’s frocks, though deer and mountain sheep skins were the only materials seen used, and the women’s frocks are less often seen without the fringe round the hood. Plain deerskin frocks are often bordered round the skirts with a fringe cut from deerskin. The 120 women nowadays often line the outer frock with drilling, bright calico, or even bedticking, and then wear it with this side out.

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Fig. 64.—Details of trimming, woman’s frock.

The frocks for both sexes, while made on the same general pattern as those of the other Eskimo, differ in many details from those of eastern America. For instance, the hood is not fitted in round the throat with the pointed throat pieces or fringed with wolf or wolverine skin until we reach the Eskimo of the Anderson River. Here, as shown by the specimens in the National Museum, the throat pieces are small and wide apart, and the men’s hoods only are fringed with wolverine skin. The women’s hoods are very large everywhere in the east for the better accommodation of the child, which is sometimes carried wholly in the hood.213

The hind flap of the skirt of the woman’s frock, except in Greenland, has developed into a long narrow train reaching the ground, while the front flap is very much decreased in size (see references just quoted). The modern frock in Greenland is very short and has very small flaps (see illustrations in Rink’s Tales, etc., pp. 8 and 9), but the ancient fashion, judging from the plate in Crantz’s History of Greenland, referred to above, was much more like that worn by the western Eskimo. In the Anderson and Mackenzie regions the flaps are short and rounded and the front flap considerably the smaller. There is less difference in the general shape of the men’s frocks. The hood is generally rounded and close fitting, except in Labrador and Baffin Land, where it is pointed on the crown. The skirt is sometimes prolonged into rounded flaps and a short scallop in front, as at Iglulik and some parts of Baffin Land.214 Petitot215 gives a full description of the dress of a “chief” from the Anderson River. He calls the frock a “blouse échancrée par côté et terminée en queues arrondies par devant et par derrière.” The style of frock worn at Point Barrow is the prevalent one along the western coast of America nearly to the Kuskokwim. On this river long hoodless frocks reaching nearly or quite to the ground are worn.216 The frock worn in Kadiak was hoodless and long, with short sleeves and large armholes beneath these.217

The men of the Siberian Eskimo and sedentary Chukches, as at Plover Bay, wear in summer a loose straight-bottomed frock without a hood, but with a frill of long fur round the neck. The winter frock is described as having “a square hood without trimmings, but capable of being drawn, like the mouth of a bag, around the face by a string 121 inserted in the edge.”218 According to Nordenskiöld,219 the men at Pitlekaj wear the hoodless frock summer and winter, putting on one or two separate hoods in winter. The under hood appears to be like one or two which I saw worn at Plover Bay, namely, a close-fitting nightcap of thin reindeer skin tied under the chin. The dress of the Siberian women consists of frock and baggy kneebreeches in one piece, sewed to tightfitting boots reaching to the knees.220

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Fig. 65.—Man’s cloak of deerskin.


“Circular” mantles of deerskin, fastened at the neck by a thong, and put on over the head like a poncho, are worn by the men in very cold weather over their other clothes when lounging in the open air about the village or watching at a seal hole or tending the seal nets at night. The cloaks are especially affected by the older men, who, having grown-up sons or sons-in-law, do not have to go sealing in winter, and spend a great deal of their time in bright weather chatting together out of doors. There is one specimen in the collection, No. 56760 [94] (Fig. 65). It is made of fine summer doe-reindeer skin, in three pieces, back and two sides of dark skin, sewed to a collar of white skin from the belly of the animal. For pattern see diagram (Fig. 66). The seams at a are gored to make the cloak hang properly from the shoulder. The collar is in two pieces, joined in the middle, and the edge c is turned over toward the hair side and “run” down in a narrow hem. The points b of the collar are brought together in the middle and joined by a little strap of deerskin about an inch long, so that the edge c makes a round hole for the neck. The width of the mantle is 60 inches and its depth 39. It is worn with the white flesh side out, as is indicated by the seams being sewed “over 122 and over” on the hair side. All the mantles seen were essentially of the same pattern. The edge is sometimes cut into an ornamental fringe, and the flesh side marked with a few narrow stripes of red ocher. This garment appears to be peculiar to northwestern America. No mention is to be found of any such a thing except in Mr. MacFarlane’s MS. notes, where he speaks of a deerskin blanket “attached with a line across the shoulders in cold weather,” among the Anderson River Eskimo. We have no means at present of knowing whether such cloaks are worn by the coast natives between Point Barrow and Kotzebue Sound, but one was worn by one of the Nunata´ñmiun who were at Nuwŭk in the autumn of 1881.

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Fig. 66.—Pattern of man’s cloak.


The rain-frock (silû´ña) is made of strips of seal or walrus intestines about 3 inches broad, sewed together edge to edge. This material is light yellowish brown, translucent, very light, and quite waterproof. In shape the frock resembles a man’s frock, but the hood comes well forward and fits closely round the face. It is generally plain, but the seams are nowadays sewed with black or colored cotton for ornament. The garment is of the same shape for both sexes, but the women frequently cover the flesh side of a deerskin frock with strips of entrail sewed together vertically, thus making a garment at once waterproof and warm, which is worn alone in summer with the hair side in. These gut shirts are worn over the clothes in summer when it rains or when the wearer is working in the boats. There are no specimens in the collection.

The kaiak jacket of black sealskin, so universal in Greenland, is unknown at Point Barrow. The waterproof gut frocks are peculiar to the western Eskimo, though shirts of seal gut, worn between the inner and outer frock, are mentioned by Egede (p. 130) and Crantz221 as used in Greenland in their time. Ellis also222 says: “Some few of them [i.e., the Eskimo of Hudsons Strait] wear shifts of seals’ bladders, sewed together in pretty near the same form with those in Europe.” They have been described generally under the name kamleïka (said to be a Siberian word) by all the authors who have treated of the natives of this region, Eskimo, Siberians, or Aleuts. We saw them worn by nearly all the natives at Plover Bay. One handsome one was observed trimmed on the seams with rows of little red nodules (pieces of the beak of one of the puffins) and tiny tufts of black feathers.

The cotton frock, already alluded to as worn to keep the driving snow out of the furs, is a long, loose shirt reaching to about midleg, with a round hole at the neck large enough to admit the head. This is generally of bright-colored calico, but shirts of white cotton are sometimes worn when hunting on the ice or snow. Similar frocks are worn by the natives at Pitlekaj.223




The hands are usually protected by mittens (aitkă´ti) of different kinds of fur. The commonest kind are of deerskin, worn with the flesh side out. Of these the collection contains one pair, No. 89828 [973] (Fig. 67). They are made of thick winter reindeer skin, with the white flesh side outward, in the shape of ordinary mittens but short and not narrowed at the wrists, with the thumb short and clumsy. The seams are all sewed “over and over” on the hair side. These mittens are about 7½ inches long and 4½ broad. The free part of the thumb is only 2¼ inches long on the outer side. Such mittens are the ordinary hand covering of men, women, and children. In extreme cold weather or during winter hunting, very heavy mittens of the same shape, but gathered to a wristband, are worn. These are made of white bearskin for men and women, for children of dogskin, with the hair out. When the hand covered with such a mitten is held upon the windward side of the face in walking, the long hair affords a very efficient protection against the wind. The long stiff hair of the bearskin also makes the mitten a very convenient brush for removing snow and hoar frost from the clothes. It is even sometimes used for brushing up the floor.

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Fig. 67.—Deerskin mittens

In the MacFarlane collection are similar mittens from the Mackenzie region. Petitot224 says the Anderson River “chief” wore pualuk “mitaines en peau de morse, aussi blanches et aussi soyeuses que de belle laine.” These were probably of bearskin, as a mitten of walrus skin is not likely to be “blanche” or “soyeuse.” Gloves are worn under these as at Point Barrow. All these mittens are short in the wrist, barely meeting the frock sleeve, and leaving a crack for the cold to get in, which is partially covered by the usual wolf or wolverine skin fringe of the sleeve. I have already mentioned the common habit among the women of carrying only one mitten and drawing one arm inside of the frock.225 The men, except when hunting, frequently wear only one of these heavy mittens, which are called pu´alu. Waterproof mittens of black sealskin, coming well up over the forearm, were also observed, but not obtained. I do not remember ever seeing them in use.


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Fig. 68.—Deerskin gloves.


Gloves of thin deerskin, worn with the hair in, and often elegantly ornamented, are used with full dress, especially at the dances. As already stated, the men wear such gloves under the pualu when shooting in the winter. When ready to shoot, the hunter slips off the mitten and holds it between his legs, while the glove enables him to cock the rifle and draw the trigger without touching the cold metal with his bare hands. There are two pairs of gloves in the collection. No. 89829 [974] (Fig. 68) illustrates a very common style called a´drigûdrĭn. They are made of thin reindeer skin, with the white flesh side out, and are rights and lefts. The short and rather clumsy fingers and thumbs are separate pieces from the palm, which is one straight, broad piece, doubled so as to bring the seam on the same side as the thumb. The thumbs are not alike on both hands. The outside piece of the thumb runs down to the wrist on the left glove, but is shorter on the right, the lower 2 inches of the edge seam being between the edges of the palm piece. Each finger is a single piece doubled lengthwise and sewed over the tip and down one side. The wrists are ornamented with an edging of two narrow strips of clipped mountain sheep skin, bordered with a narrow strip of wolverine fur with the reddened flesh side out. These gloves were made for sale and are not well mated, one being 8½ inches, with fingers (all of the same length) 4½ inches long, while the other is 8 inches long with fingers of 3½ inches. No. 56747 [128] is a pair of gloves made in the same way but more elaborately ornamented. There is a band of deerskin but no fringe round the wrist. The back of the hand is covered with brown deerskin, hair out, into which is inserted the square ornamental pattern in which the light stripes are white deerskin and the dark pipings the usual almost hairless fawnskin. Gloves like this type are the most common and almost universally have a fringe round the wrist. They are also usually a little longer-wristed than the mittens.


Mittens are universally employed among the Eskimo, but gloves with fingers, which, as is well known, are a much less warm covering for the hand than mittens, are very rare. They are in use at Norton Sound226 and in the Mackenzie district227, and have even been observed among the Arctic Highlanders of Smith Sound, who, however, generally wear mittens228. Dr. Simpson229 mentions both deerskin and bearskin mittens as used at Point Barrow, but makes no reference to gloves. The natural inference from this is that the fashion of wearing gloves has been introduced since his time. It is quite probable that the introduction of firearms has favored the general adoption of gloves. The following hypothesis may be suggested as to the way the fashion reached Point Barrow: We may suppose that the Malimiut of Norton Sound got the idea directly from the Russians. They would carry the fashion to the Nunatañmiun at Kotzebue Sound, who in their turn would teach it to the Point Barrow traders at the Colville, and these would carry it on to the eastern natives.

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Fig. 69.—Man’s breeches of deerskin


Breeches (kă´kli).—

The usual leg-covering of the men is one or two pairs of knee breeches, rather loose, but fitted to the shape of the leg. They are very low in front, barely covering the pubes, but run up much higher behind, sometimes as high as the small of the back. They are held in place by a girdle of thong round the waist, and are usually fastened below the knee, over the boots, by a drawstring. There is one pair in the collection, No. 56759 [91], Fig. 69. They are of short-haired brown reindeer skin, from the body of the animal, worn with the hair out. The waist is higher behind than in front, and each leg is slightly gathered to a band just below the knee. Pattern (see diagram, Fig. 70): There are two pieces in each leg, the inside and the outside. The spaces between the edges e of the two legs is filled by the gusset, 126 made of five pieces, which covers the pubes. The crotch is reinforced by a square patch of white deerskin sewed on the inside. The trimming consists of strips of edging. The first strip (Fig. 71) is 1½ inches wide, and runs along the front seam, inserted in the outside piece, to the knee-band, beginning 5 inches from the waist. The light strips are of clipped mountain sheepskin; the dark one of dark brown deerskin; the pipings of the thin fawn skin, and the tags of red worsted. The edges of the strip are fringed with narrow double strips of mountain sheepskin 2 inches long, put on about 1½ inches apart. A straight strip, 2 inches wide, is inserted obliquely across the outside piece from seam to seam. It is of the same materials, but differs slightly in pattern. The knee-band is of the same materials and 2½ inches deep. The length from waist to knee is 24 inches behind, 23 in front; the girth of the leg 24 inches round the thigh and 14 round the knee. These represent a common style of full-dress breeches, and are worn with a pair of trimmed boots held up by drawstrings. They are always worn with the hair out and usually over a pair of deerskin drawers. The ordinary breeches are of heavier deerskin, made perfectly plain, being usually worn alone, with the hair turned in. When a pair of under breeches is worn, however, the hair of the outer ones is turned out. Trimmed breeches are less common than trimmed frocks, as the plain breeches when new are often worn for full dress. The clean, white flesh side presents a very neat appearance. The skin of the rough seal is sometimes, but rarely, used for summer breeches, which are worn with the hair out. With this exception, breeches seem to be invariably made of deerskin. This garment is practically universal among the Eskimo and varies very little in pattern.

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Fig. 70.—Pattern of man’s breeches.

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Fig. 71.—Trimming of man’s breeches.

Pantaloons (kûmûñ).—

The women and children, and occasionally the men, wear pantaloons (strictly speaking), i.e., tight-fitting trousers continuous with the foot covering. Of the two pairs of pantaloons in the collection, No. 74042 [1792] (Fig. 72) will serve as the type. The shoes with sealskin moccasin soles and deerskin uppers are sewed at the ankles to a pair of tight-fitting deerskin trousers, reaching above the hips and higher behind than in front. Pattern (diagram, Fig. 73a): Each leg is composed of four long pieces (front 1, outside 2, back 3, and inside 4), five gussets (one on the thigh 5, and four on the calf, 6, 6, 6, 6), which enlarges the garment to fit the swell of the calf and thigh and the half-waistband (7). The two legs are put together by 127 joining the edges d d d of the opposite legs and sewing the gusset (8) into the space in front with its base joined to the edges e e of the two legs. The sole of each shoe is a single piece of white tanned sealskin with the grain side out, bent up about 1¼ inches all round the foot, rounded at the toe and heel and broadest across the ball of the foot. The toe and heel are “gathered” into shape by crimping the edge vertically. A space of about 3½ inches is left uncrimped on each side of the foot. (The process of crimping these soles will be described under the head of boots and shoes, where it properly belongs). Around the top of this sole is sewed a narrow band of white sealskin, sewed “over and over” on the edge of the uncrimped space, but “run” through the gathers at the ends, so as to draw them up. The upper is in two pieces (heel, 9, and toe, 10). The heel piece is folded round the heel, and the toe piece doubled along the line f, and the curved edges g g joined to the straight edges h h, which makes the folded edge f, fit the outline of the instep. The bottom is then cut off accurately to fit the sole and sewed to the edge of the band. The trousers and shoes are sewed together at the ankles. The whole is made of the short-haired skin from the deer’s legs. Pieces 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are of dark brown skin (10 put on so that the tuft of coarse hair on the deer’s ankle comes on the outside of the wearer’s ankle), while the remaining pieces are white, making a pleasing pattern of broad stripes. The inner edge of 5 is piped with dark brown fawnskin, and a round piece of white skin is inserted at the bottom of 2. No. 56748 [136] is a pair of pantaloons of nearly the same pattern (see diagram, Fig. 73b) and put together in a similar way. These pantaloons have soles of sealskin with the hair left on and worn inside, and are made of deer leg skin, wholly dark brown, except the gussets on the calf, which are white. There is a piece of white skin let out, 2, as before, and the ankle tuft is in the same position.

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Fig. 72.—Woman’s pantaloons.

From the general fit of these garments they appear to be all made on essentially the same pattern, probably without greater variations than those already described. When worn by the women the material is usually, if not always, the skin of reindeer legs, and most commonly of 128 the pattern of No. 56748 [136], namely, brown, with white leg gussets. Pantaloons wholly of brown skin are quite common, especially for everyday wear, while striped ones, like No. 74042 [1792], are much less usual and worn specially for full dress. Children’s pantaloons are always brown, and I have seen one pair, worn by a young lad, of lynx skin. The two or three pairs which we saw worn by men were wholly brown. These pantaloons of leg skin with sealskin soles are always worn with the hair out and usually over a pair of under pantaloons of the same shape, but made of softer skins with longer hair, which is worn next the skin, and with stocking feet. The outer pantaloons are discarded in summer and the inner ones only worn, the feet being protected by sealskin waterproof boots, as already stated. The waterproof sealskin pantaloons mentioned in the same connection do not fit so neatly, as they are made with as few seams as possible (usually only one, up the leg) to avoid leakage. They are sewed with the waterproof seam, and held up round the ankle by strings, like the waterproof boots to be described further on. This last-mentioned garment seems to be peculiar to the Point Barrow region (including probably Wainwright Inlet and perhaps the rest of the coast down to Kotzebue Sound). No mention of such a complete protection against wet is to be found in any of the published accounts of the Eskimo elsewhere, nor are there any specimens in the Museum.230

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Fig. 73.—Patterns of woman’s pantaloons. 129

Boots and breeches united in this way so as to form pantaloons are peculiar to the west of America, where they are universally worn from the Mackenzie district westward and southward. We have no specimens of women’s leg coverings from the Mackenzie district, but Petitot231 describes them thus: “Le pantalon * * * fait corps avec la chaussure.” In the east the women always wear breeches separate from the boots, which usually differ from those of the men in their size and length, often reaching to the hips.232

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Fig. 74.—Pattern of stocking.


Next to the skin on the feet and legs the men wear stockings of deerskin, usually of soft, rather long-haired skin, with the hair in. These are usually in three pieces, the leg, 1, toe piece, 2, and sole, 3 (see diagram, Fig. 74). A straight strip about 1 inch wide often runs round the foot between the sole and the other pieces. Stockings of this pattern, but made of very thick winter deerskin, are substituted for the outer boots when deer-hunting in winter in the dry snow, especially when snowshoes are used. They are warm; the flesh side sheds the snow well and the thick hair acts as a sort of wadding which keeps the feet from being galled by the bars and strings of the snowshoes. Many of the deer-hunters in 1883 made rough buskins of this pattern out of the skins of freshly killed deer simply dried, without further preparation.

Boots and shoes.—

Over the stockings are worn boots or shoes with uppers of various kinds of skin, with the hair on, or black tanned sealskin, always fitted to heelless crimped moccasin soles of some different leather, of the pattern which, with some slight modifications of form, is universal among the Eskimo. These soles are made as follows: A “blank” for the sole is cut out, of the shape of the foot, but a couple of inches larger all round. Then, beginning at one side of the ball of the foot, the toe part is doubled over toward the inside of the sole, so that the edges just match. The two parts are then pinched together with 130 the teeth along a line parallel to the folded edge and at a distance from it equal to the depth of the intended fold. This bitten line runs from the edge of the leather as far as it is intended to turn up the side of the sole. A series of similar folds is carried round the toe to a point on the other side of the sole opposite the starting point. In the same way a series of crimps is carried round the heel, leaving an uncrimped space of 2 or 3 inches on each side of the foot. The sole is then sewed to a band or to the edge of the upper, with the thread run through each fold of the crimps. This gathers the sole in at the heel and toe and brings the uncrimped part straight up on each side of the shank. When the folds are all of the same length and but slightly gathered the sole is turned up nearly straight, as at the heel usually, and at the toe also of waterproof boots. When the folds are long and much gathered the sole slopes well in over the foot. Some boots, especially those intended for full dress, have the sole deeper on the sides than at the toe, so that the top of the sole comes to a point at the toe. The ordinary pattern is about the same height all round and follows the shape of the foot, being rather more gathered in over the toe than at the heel. The “blank” for the sole is cut out by measuring the size of the foot on the leather and allowing by eye the margin which is to be turned up. The crimping is also done by eye. Any irregularity in the length of the crimps can be remedied by pressing out the crease. I have never seen at Point Barrow the ivory knives, such as are used at Norton Sound for arranging the crimps.

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Fig. 75.—Man’s boot of deerskin.

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Fig. 76.—Pattern of deerskin boot.

Different kinds of leather are used for the soles, and each kind is supposed to be best suited for a particular purpose. The beautiful white urine-tanned sealskin is used for winter wear when the snow is dry, but is not suited for standing the roughness and dampness of the salt-water ice. For this purpose sealskin dressed with the hair on and worn flesh side out is said to be the very best, preferable even to the various waterproof skins used for summer boot soles. For waterproof soles are used oil-dressed skins233 of the walrus, bearded seal, polar bear, or, best of all, the white whale. This last makes a beautiful light yellow translucent leather about 0.1 inch thick, which is quite durable and keeps out water for a long time. It is highly prized and quite an article of trade among the natives, a pair of soles usually commanding a good price. These Eskimo appear to be the only ones who have discovered the excellence of this material for waterproof soles, as there is no mention to be found of its use elsewhere. The “narwhal skin” spoken of by Dr. Simpson234 is probably this material, as he calls it “Kel-lel´-lu-a,” which is the ordinary word for white whale at Point Barrow. The narwhal is very rare in these waters, while the white whale is comparatively abundant. Dr. Simpson appears not to have seen the animal from which the skin was obtained. It is, however, by no means impossible that some skins of the narwhal, which when dressed would be indistinguishable 131 from the white whale skins, are obtained from the eastern natives or elsewhere. Such crimped soles are in use among the Eskimo everywhere, varying but little in general pattern. The Greenland boots are specially noticeable for the neatness of the crimping, while specimens in the Museum from the central region are decidedly slovenly in their workmanship. The boots worn by the natives of Plover Bay have the sole narrowed at the shank and hardly coming over the foot except at the toe and heel, where they are crimped, but less deeply than usual. This style of sole very much resembles those of a pair of Kamchatdale boots in the National Museum, which, however, are turned up without crimping, as is the case with the boots used by the Aleuts on the Commander Islands, of which Dr. L. Stejneger has kindly shown me a specimen. There is a folded “welt” of sealskin in the seam between the upper and sole of the Plover Bay boots. I am informed by Capt. Herendeen that the natives have been taught to put this in by the whalemen who every year purchase large numbers of boots on the Siberian coast, for use in the Arctic. Similar welts, which are very unusual on Eskimo boots, are to be seen on some brought by Mr. Nelson from Kings Island and Norton Sound. The winter boots usually have uppers of deerskin, generally the short-haired skin from the legs. Mountain-sheep skin is sometimes used for full-dress boots, and sealskin with the hair out for working boots. The latter is not a good material, as the snow sticks to it badly. There are four pairs of men’s winter boots in the collection, from which No. 56750 [111] (Fig. 75) has been selected as the type of the everyday pattern. They are made of deer-leg skin with white sealskin soles. Leg and upper are in four pieces,235 back 1, two sides 2 2, and front 3; 1 and 3 are gored at a a a to fit the swell of the calf; 1 and 3 are of dark skin, and 2 2 lighter colored, especially along the middle. The bottom is cut off accurately to fit the sole but the top is left irregular, as this is concealed by the breeches. The boots are 132 held up round the ankles by two tie-strings of sealthong, sewed in between the sole and the band, one on each side just under the middle of the ankle. They are long enough to cross above the heel, pass once or twice round the ankle, which fits more loosely than the rest of the boot,and tie in front. On each heel is a large round patch of sealskin with the hair on and pointing toward the toe (to prevent slipping). These patches are carefully “blind-stitched” on so that the stitches do not show on the outside.

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Fig. 77.—Man’s dress boot of deerskin.

Boots of this style are the common everyday wear of the men, sometimes made wholly of dark deerskin and sometimes variegated. They are often made of a pattern like that of the lower part of the women’s pantaloons; that is, with the uppers separate from the leg pieces, which are brown, with four white gussets on the calf. Fig. 77, No. 56759 [91], is one of a pair of full-dress boots of a slightly different pattern. The leg pieces are the same in number as in No. 56750, and put together in the same way, but 2 and 3 are of a different shape.236 They are made of deer-leg skins, each piece with a lighter streak down the middle. The soles are of white sealskin, finely crimped, with the edge coming to a point at the toe, and the five ornamental bands are of sealskin, alternately black and white. A strip of edging three-fourths of an inch wide is inserted in the seam between 2 and 3 on each side. The light stripes are mountain-sheep skin and the dark ones the usual young fawnskin, tagged with red worsted. The leg reaches to just below the knee, and is hemmed over on the inside, to hold the drawstring, which comes out behind. There are strings at the ankles as before.

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Fig. 78.—Pattern of man’s dress boot of deerskin.

Fig. 79, No. 89834 [770], is one of a pair of almost precisely the same pattern as the last, but made of mountain-sheep skin. The soles are more deeply turned up all round and have three ornamental bands of sealskin around the edge, black, white, and black. Edging is inserted into both the seams on each side. It is strips of mountain-sheep 133 skin and a dark brown deerskin, tagged with red worsted, with the edge which laps over the side piece cut into oblique tags. There are no tiestrings, as the soles are turned up high enough to stay in place without them. These boots were brought from the east by one of the Nuwŭk trading parties in 1882. Fig. 80, No. 56749 [110], is also a full-dress boot, with soles like the last and no tiestrings. The leg is of two pieces of dark brown deerskin with the hair clipped short. These pieces are shaped like 2 in No. 56750, and the inner is larger, so that it laps round the leg, bringing the seam on the outside. The leg is enlarged to fit the swell of the calf by a large triangular gusset from the knee to the midleg, meeting the inside piece in an oblique seam across the calf. Instead of a hem, the top of the leg has a half-inch band sewed round it and a binding for the drawstring above this. Edging is inserted in the front seam, and obliquely across the outside of the leg. That in the front seam is three narrow strips of deerskin, dark in the middle and light on each side. The other is of mountain-sheep skin in three strips, piped with fawnskin and tagged with worsted.

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Fig. 79.—Man’s dress boot of skin of mountain-sheep.

The boots belong with the breeches, No. 56759. They fairly represent the style of full-dress boots worn with the loose-bottomed breeches. They all have drawstrings just below the knee, and often have no tie-strings at the ankles. The eastern Eskimo are everywhere described as wearing the boots tied at the top with a drawstring and the bottoms of the breeches usually loose and hanging down on them. Tying down the breeches over the tops of the boots, as is done at Point Barrow, is an improvement on the eastern fashion, as it closes the garments at the knee so as to prevent the entrance of cold air. The same result is obtained in an exactly opposite way by the people of Smith Sound, who, according to Bessels (Naturalist, vol. 18, p. 865), tie the boots over the breeches.

All fur garments, including boots, are sewed in the same way, usually with reindeer sinew, by fitting the edges together and sewing them “over and over” on the “wrong” side. The waterproof boots of black sealskin, however, are sewed with an elaborate double seam, which is quite waterproof, and is made as follows: The two pieces are put together, flesh side to flesh side, so that the edge of one projects beyond 134 the other, which is then “blind-stitched” down by sewing it “over and over” on the edge, taking pains to run the stitches only part way through the other piece. The seam is then turned and the edge of the outer piece is turned in and “run” down to the grain side of the under with fine stitches which do not run through to the flesh side of it. Thus in neither seam are there holes through both pieces at once. The sewing is done with fine sinew thread and very fine round needles (the women used to ask for “little needles, like a hair”), and the edge of the leather is softened by wetting it in the mouth. A similar waterproof seam is used in sewing together boat covers.

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Fig. 80.—Pair of man’s dress boots of deerskin.

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Fig. 81.—Woman’s waterproof sealskin boot.

There is one pair of waterproof boots in the collection (No. 76182 [1794] Fig. 81). The tops are of black dressed sealskin, reaching to the knee and especially full on the instep and ankle, which results from their being made with the least possible number of seams, to reduce the chance of leaking. The soles are of white whale skin, turned up about 1½ inches all around. The leg and upper are made all in one piece so that the double water-tight seam runs down the front of the leg to the instep, and then diagonally across the foot to the quarter on one side. The bottom is cut off accurately to fit the top of the sole. The edges of the upper and the sole are put together so that the inside of the former comes against the inside of the latter, and the two are “run” together with fine stitches, with a stout double under-thread running through them along the surface of the upper. The ornamental band at the top is of white sealskin “run” on with strong dark thread, and the checkered pattern is made by drawing a strip of black skin through slits in the white. Round the top of the band is sewed a binding of black sealskin, which holds a drawstring of sinew braid. The sole is kept up in shape and the boot made to fit round the ankle by a string of sealskin twine passed through four loops, one on each side just back of the ball of the foot, and one on each quarter. These loops are made of little strips of white whale skin, doubled over and sewed to the edge of the sole on the outside. The ends of the string are passed through the front loop so that the bight 135 comes across the ball of the foot, then through the hinder loops, and are crossed above the heel, carried once or twice around the ankle, and tied in front.

Such boots are universally worn in summer. The men’s boots are usually left with an irregular edge at the top, and are held up by the breeches, while the women’s usually have white bands around the tops with drawstrings. Half-boots of the same material, reaching to midleg, without drawstrings, or shoes reaching just above the ankle with a string round the top are sometimes worn over the deerskin boots. Similar shoes of deerskin are sometimes worn in place of boots.

Waterproof boots of black sealskin are universally employed by Eskimo and by the Aleuts. These boots stand water for a long time without getting wet through, but when they become wet they must be turned inside out and dried very slowly to prevent them from shrinking, and worked soft with a stone skin-dressing tool or the teeth. The natives prefer to dry them in the sun. When the black epidermis wears off this leather is no longer waterproof, so that the women are always on the watch for white spots, which are mended with water-tight patches as soon as possible.

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Fig. 82.—Sketch of “ice-creepers” on boot sole

In the early spring, before it thaws enough to render waterproof boots necessary, the surface of the snow becomes very smooth and slippery. To enable themselves to walk on this surface without falling, the natives make a kind of “creeper” out of strips of sealskin. These are doubled lengthwise, and generally bent into a half-moon or horseshoe shape, with the folded edges on the outside of the curve, sewed on the toe and heel of the sealskin sole, as represented in Fig. 82.


Belts (tapsĭ).—

The belt which is used to hold up the pantaloons or breeches is simply a stout strip of skin tied round the waist. The girdle, which is always worn outside of the frock, except when the weather is warm or the wearer heated by exercise, is very often a similar strap of deerskin, or perhaps wolfskin. Often, however, and especially for 136 full dress, the men wear a handsome belt woven from feathers, and the women one made of wolverines’ toes. There are in the collection two the former and one of the latter.

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Fig. 83.—Man’s belt woven of feathers. The lower cut shows detail of pattern.

No. 89544 [1419] (Fig. 83a) has been chosen as the type of a man’s belt. It is 35 inches long and 1 inch broad, and made of the shafts of feathers woven into an elegant pattern, bordered on the edges with deerskin, and terminating in a leather loop at one end and a braided string at the other. The loop is a flat piece of skin of the bearded seal, in which is cut a large oblong eye. The weaving begins at the square end of the loop. The warp consists of nine long strands sewed through the inner face of the leather so as to come out on the hinder edge. The middle strand is of stout sinew braid, ending in a knot on the inner side of the leather. The four on each side are of fine cotton twine or stout thread, each two being one continuous thread passing through the leather and out again. The woof is the shafts of small feathers regularly woven, the first strand woven over and under, ending over the warp, the next under and over, ending under the warp, and so on alternately, each strand extending about one-fourth inch beyond the outer warp-strand on each side. This makes the pattern shown in Fig. 83b, a long stitch on each side, three very short ones on each side of the middle, and a slightly longer one in the middle. The strips of feathers forming the woof are not joined together, but one strip is woven in as far as it will go, ending always on the inner side of the belt, a new strip beginning where the other ends. The shafts of black feathers, with a few of the barbs attached, are 137 woven into the woof at tolerably regular intervals. Each black strand starts under the first strand of the warp, making the outer and inner of the three short stitches on each side black. This produces a checkered pattern along the middle of the belt (see enlarged section, Fig. 83b). The woof strands are driven home tightly and their ends are secured on each side by a double thread of cotton sewed into the corner of the leather loop. One thread runs along the outside of the belt and the other along the inside, passing between the ends of the feathers about every ten feathers and making a turn round the outer thread, as in Fig. 84. The edges of the belt are trimmed off even and bound with a narrow strip of deerskin with the flesh side out and painted red. The binding of the upper edge makes an irregular loose lining on the inside of the belt. Across the end of the belt is sewed on each side a narrow strip of sealskin, and the ends of the warp are gathered into a three-ply braid 16 inches long, which is used to fasten the belt by drawing it through the loop and knotting it. An ancient bone spearhead is attached to the belt as an amulet by a stout strap.

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Fig. 84.—Diagram showing method of fastening the ends of feathers in belt.

No. 89543 [1420] is a similar belt worn in precisely the same way, but with the black feathers introduced in a different pattern. The weaving is done by hand with the help of some little tools, to be described under implements for making and working fiber. Belts of this style appear to be peculiar to the Point Barrow region. Indeed, girdles of any kind are seldom worn over the jacket by the men in the eastern regions.

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Fig. 85.—Woman’s belt of wolverine toes.

The women never wear anything except a simple strip of skin or the wolverine belt mentioned above. No. 89542 [1421], Fig. 85, is one of these. It is made of nine strips of dark brown skin from round the foot of the wolverine, sewed together end to end. Each strip, except the one at the end, has a claw at the lower corner (on some of the strips the bit of skin bearing the claws is pieced in) so that there are 138 eight nearly equidistant claws making a fringe round the lower edge of the belt. There is a hole at each end into which is half-hitched the end of a narrow strip of deerskin about 8 inches long. These strings serve to tie the girdle. This belt is 33 inches long and 1½ inches wide, and has been worn so long that the inside is very dirty. Such belts are very valuable and highly prized, and are worn exclusively by the women.

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Fig. 86.—Belt-fastener.

Fig. 86, No. 89718 [1055], is an object which is quite uncommon and seldom if ever now seen in use. It is of walrus ivory, very old and yellow. It served as a belt-fastener (tápsĭgɐ). I have seen a brass clock wheel used on a girl’s belt for the same purpose. This specimen is very old, neatly made, and polished smooth, probably from long use.


In addition to the trimmings above described there are certain ornamental appendages which belong to the dress, but can not be considered as essential parts of any garments, like the trimmings. For instance, nearly every male in the two villages wears dangling from his back between the shoulders an ermine skin either brown or white, or an eagle’s feather, which is transferred to the new garment when the old one is worn out. This is perhaps an amulet as well as an ornament, as Dr. Simpson states.237 An eagle’s feather is often worn on the outside of the hood, pendant from the crown of the head. Attached to the belt are various amulets (to be described under the head of “Religion”) and at the back always the tail of an animal, usually a wolverine’s. Very seldom a wolf’s tail is worn, but nearly all, even the boys, have wolverine tails, which are always saved for this purpose and used for no other. This habit among the Eskimo of western America of wearing a tail at the girdle has been noticed by many travelers, and prevails at least as far as the Anderson River, since Petitot,238 in describing the dress of the Anderson River “chief,” says: “par derrière il portait aux reins une queue épaisse et ondoyante de renard noir.” According to him239 it is the women of that region, who wear, “à titre de talismans, des defroques empaillées de corbeau, de faucon, ou d’hermine.” The custom of wearing an ermine skin on the jacket was observed by Dr. Armstrong of the Investigator at Cape Bathurst.240


203. Report, etc., p. 125.

204. Compare Nordenskiöld, Vega, vol 2. p. 213.

205. Vega, vol. 2, p. 98.

206. Op. cit., pp. 241-245.

207. See for example, Egede, p. 219; Crantz, vol. 1, p. 136; Bessels, Op. cit., pp. 805 and 868 (Smith Sound); Kane, 1st Grinnell Exp., pp. 45 (Greenland) and 132 (Cape York); Brodbeck, “Nach Osten,” pp. 23, 24, and Holm, Geografisk Tidskrift, vol. 8, p. 90 (East Greenland); Parry, 2d Voy., pp. 494-6 (Iglulik); Boas. “Central Eskimo,” pp. 554-6; Kumlien, loc. cit., pp. 22-25 (Cumberland Gulf); also, Frobisher, in Hakluyt’s Voyages, 1589, etc., p. 628.

208. Dall, Alaska, pp. 21 and 141.

209. Second Voy., p. 537.

210. Compare Dall, Alaska, p. 22.

211. There are several frocks so trimmed in the National Museum, from the Mackenzie and Anderson region.

212. Second Grinnell Exp., vol. 1, p. 203.

213. Egede, p. 131; Crantz, i, p. 137 and Pl. III. (Greenland); Bessels, op. cit., p. 865 (Smith Sound—married women only); Parry, 2nd Voy., p. 491, and numerous illustrations, passim (Iglulik); Packard. Naturalist Vol. 19, p. 6, Pl. XXIII (Labrador), and Kumlien, l.c., p. 33 (Cumberland Gulf). See also several specimens in the National Museum from Ungava (collected by L. M. Turner) and the Mackenzie and Anderson rivers (collected by MacFarlane). The hoods from the last region, while still much larger and wider than those in fashion at Point Barrow, are not so enormous as the more eastern ones. The little peak on the top of the woman’s hood at Point Barrow may be a reminiscence of the pointed hood worn by the women mentioned by Bessels, op. cit.

214. Parry, 2d Voy., p. 494, and 1st Voy., p. 283.

215. Monographic, etc., p. xiv.

216. Petroff, op. cit., p. 134, Pls. 4 and 5. See also specimens in the National Museum.

217. Petroff, op. cit., p. 139, and Liscansky, Voy., etc., p. 194.

218. Dall, Alaska, p. 379.

219. Vega, vol. 2, p. 98.

220. Nordenskiöld, Vega, vol. 2, p. 100 and Fig. on p. 57; Dall, Alaska, p. 379 and plate opposite. I also noticed this dress at Plover Bay in 1881. Compare also Krause Brothers, Geogr. Blätter, vol. 5, No. 1, p. 5, where the dress along the coast from East Cape to Plover Bay is described as we saw it at Plover Bay.

221. Vol. 1, p. 137.

222. Voyage to Hudsons Bay, p. 136.

223. Nordenskiöld, Vega, vol. 2, p. 98.

224. Monographie, etc., p. xv.

225. Compare Parry, 2d Voy., p. 494, where a similar habit is mentioned at Iglulik.

226. Dall, Alaska, pp. 23, 152, and 153. He speaks of the thumb (p. 23) as “a triangular, shapeless protuberance”; a description which applies well to those in our collection.

227. MacFarlane MS., and Petitot, Monographie, etc., p. xv.

228. Bessels, Naturalist, vol. 18, p. 865.

229. Op. cit., p. 242.

230. Dr. Simpson’s language (op. cit., p. 243) is a little indefinite (“The feet and legs are incased in water-tight sealskin boots”), but probably refers to these as well as to the knee boots. The “outside coat of the same material,” and the boots and outside coat “made all in one, with a drawing string round the face,” mentioned in the same place, appears to have gone wholly out of fashion since his time. At all events, we saw neither, though we continually saw the natives when working in the boats, and these garments, especially the latter, could hardly have failed to attract our attention.

231. Monographie, etc., p. xv.

232. Bessels, Naturalist, vol. 18, p. 865, Smith Sound; Egede, p. 131, and Crantz, vol. 1, p. 138, Greenland; Parry, 2d Voy., p. 495 and 496, Iglulik, and Kumlien, op. cit., p. 23, Cumberland Gulf. Also in Labrador, see Pl. XVII, Naturalist, vol. 19, No. 6. The old couple whom Franklin met at the Bloody Fall of the Coppermine appear to have worn pantaloons, for he speaks of their “tight leggings sewed to shoes” (1st Exp., vol. 2, p. 180).

233. Probably prepared like the boat covers described by Crantz, vol. 1, p. 167, by drying them without removing all of their own blubber.

234. Op. cit., pp. 242-266.

235. See diagram, Fig. 76.

236. See diagram, Fig. 78.

237. Op. cit., p. 243.

238. Monographie, etc., p. xiv.

239. Ibid.

240. Personal Narrative, p. 176.

The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.