Sinews of Survival: The Living Legacy of Inuit Clothing


Traditional Inuit attire has been used for protection, a sense of identity, and as culture-bearer for thousands of years. By preserving their clothing traditions, the Inuit celebrate their accomplishments, show pride in being a part of a unique culture, and affirm their lasting connection to the natural and spiritual worlds of their ancestors. Sinews of Survival draws together information about circumpolar clothing technologies, styles, and materials from 4000 years ago to the present. In this unique and beautifully illustrated book, Betty Kobayashi Issenman explores the living legacy of Inuit garment use and manufacture.

Sinews of Survival summarizes prehistoric finds related to clothing, describes the materials used, their characteristics, and the different items of clothing which are common throughout the circumpolar world. The tools are described at length as well as ingenious ways in which the Inuit prepared the material they harvested from animals, birds, and sea mammals. The text is accompanied by patterns and illustrations of seams and stitches which serve to highlight differences in style from one region to another and help identify historical clothing of different Inuit groups.

The author weaves together Inuit voices, drawings, and writings, giving a glimpse of a rich and layered culture which has survived some of the harshest living conditions in the world while abiding in ecological and spiritual harmony with its environment. While the focus is on the Canadian heritage, ample references to and images of Inuit clothing from Northeastern Siberia, Alaska, and Kalaallit Nunaat (Greenland) help readers appreciate commonalities and differences. Written in accessible languagewith numerous photographs, Sinews of Survival is an important resource for Arctic scholars, anthropologists, and archaeologists, and for the general public it opens a door to Inuit culture.

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Vancouver, B.C.
Publication year:
  • 1997


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