The Block

The One Foot High Kick, depicted on this block made by Victoria Kayuryuk and Nancy Kangiryuaq, is considered to be the most difficult of traditional Inuit games. It involves physical power, combined with a high degree of body coordination. The object is to jump from a two-footed stance and try to kick a small target in the shape of a seal, while having a controlled and balanced landing on the kicking foot. Bright calico fabrics used to surround the embroidered scene became highly valued trading commodities once introduced to the Inuit by traders. Two symbols, an ulu, a common traditional knife used only by women, and a polar bear, indigenous to the coastal area, are both carved in caribou bone complete the decoration on the block.

Whale Cove, Nunavut
Inunnguaq Rankin Inlet 1996-07-18
Rankin Inlet Inukshuk

Cultural Profile

The Kivalliq are among what the Europeans termed ‘the Central Inuit,’ despite the fact that these groups have numerous bands with distinct identities. Today they are located in Nunavut, along the western edge of Hudson’s Bay, in the District of Keewatin. They reside mostly in the communities of Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Arviat.

Traditionally, most Kivalliq Inuit lived in snow houses called igloos, hide tents, and sod huts. The igloo is the most widely recognized Inuit dwelling and was actually used only by the Central Inuit and only in wintertime. It is constructed from blocks of ice laid in an upward spiral from a base, gradually leaning inward to form a domed shape, with a hole at the top for ventilation. A fur-covered platform of ice was used as a bed. During the summertime, they used tents made from driftwood poles and caribou-hide coverings.

Baker Lake banner
Baker Lake

Historically called Caribou Inuit, the Kivalliq are an inland people who hunted the animals for which they are named and fished freshwater lakes. Caribou provided them with their food and materials for clothing, shelter and tools. Other game included polar bears, musk oxen, mountain sheep, wolves, wolverines, foxes, rabbits, marmots, squirrels, and waterfowl, in addition to the fish. Meat was often eaten raw because fuel for cooking was scarce. the Algonquin peoples called the Inuit “Eskimo”, meaning “raw-meat eaters.” Modern descendents prefer the term Inuit, which means “the real people.”

The difficult conditions of the far North requires comfortable, warm clothing. The ingenious, traditional designs define the wearer’s age, gender, occupation, and geographic location. Items made of water-resistant sealskin are ideal protection against wet conditions, while Caribou skin is warmer and lighter and offers better protection against the dry cold. Their parkas have the fur facing inward and are tailored to the contours of the body to keep out cold air at the waist, neck, and wrists. Mukluks and mittens are insulated with fur, down, and moss.

Sponsor: Kivalliq Inuit Association | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons