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What One Inukjuak Sculpture Says About the Past

Uqallaqatigiinngniq: Sharing Voices

Aug 27, 2021
by Holly Andersen

When I look at this carving, the first thing that comes to mind is a strong, Inuk woman. Many years ago, women would pretty much run the household. Being the woman of the house was vital in making sure things around the home were done. Men would head out on the land to hunt, fish and provide for the family, while the women would stay to take care of the children, cook, clean, gather water—whatever was needed to keep the household in order.

I grew up in a fishing village, so most summers the men would be busy at fishing berths surrounding our town. My father would leave us to go fishing and hunting for weeks, sometimes months at a time. So my mother would have to be the head of our household while he was gone. I have a lot of admiration for women who did this and for those who continue to do this today.

It’s hard to imagine a time when we didn't have access to running water, but it wasn’t until I was 9 or 10 years old that our town council gave in and installed a well for my family to have running water in our part of town. My parents had to look after it themselves, and they even bought the pump for the well. That’s how determined they were to have running water for our family and our neighbours.

This 1953 carving illustrates how women would use a pannak to collect ice in a bucket, which was very common before running water. Ice was needed to make water for drinking, cooking and washing. The pannak was mainly made from bone or antler, and it even included metal after European explorers arrived in the North. Outside of collecting ice, it was mostly used for carving iglus.

This sculpture makes me think of my ancestors and how things have changed throughout the years. Back then you had to work hard for everything, and simple tasks such as getting a glass of water or washing your clothes required more time and energy.

My mother told me about having to help her own mother get buckets of water from the well in the centre of town when she was little. She said sometimes you would get ice or snow instead of water and have to warm the ice up on the stove to melt it. You might still see people collecting water this way if you are out on the land, or at your cabin, otherwise it’s uncommon to have to do this in modern-day society. How the times have changed!


This series was made possible with the generous support of the TD Ready Commitment. 

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