The bitterly cold climate of the Canadian North, where winter temperatures in some areas can fall as low as -40°C, shaped every aspect of life. The founding people – the Inuit – used local, natural materials to develop many things. Animal bones were turned into tools, animal skin became clothing, and snow and ice were used as building materials for shelters such as igloos. It is likely that Inuit women invented or improved upon many technologies used in cooking, skin tanning and clothing production since they generally performed these tasks.
The invention of the parka ensured survival in the Arctic. The traditional parka always had a hood and was made of either sealskin or caribou hide. Women’s parkas had larger hoods than men’s because they used the hood as a baby carrier! This style of parka is called amauti.
The original animal skin covered kayaks were long, narrow, covered boats that were used to hunt seals and walruses across the frigid arctic waters. These early boats used seal bladders filled with air to make them buoyant and nearly unsinkable. The outer surface was covered in whale fat to make the kayak waterproof.
The first toboggans were used by hunters to carry furs and meat back home after the hunt over snow and ice. The Inuit used whale bone to make the toboggans since wood was generally not available. Tribes from the south such as the Cree used strips of hickory, ash, or maple in the construction of their toboggans.