Activities & Projects

Tapestry of Life

Recommended by Cirriculum Services Canada

Level: Grade 6 Social Studies

Preparation: Print images if required. Print The Order of the Day Resource, Worksheet 1 — The Order of the Day and Group Assignments 1 — 6 — Our Boots

Duration: Discussion re sequence of events — 30 minutes; reading and reporting about the boot making process — 90 minutes; perspective writing activity — 60 minutes = 180 minutes

Materials: None

  • describe ways in which the natural environment molded Inuit culture
  • use a variety of resources and tools to investigate Inuit peoples
  • write narratives that present a particular perspective or point of view

New Vocabulary:
Blubber, breathing hole sealing, harpoon, Inuit, kamik, scraper, scraping platform, sinew, sole, stretching frames, tapestry

(see Glossary for definitions)

Print or project the map of Canada to locate the Canadian Arctic, and the traditional locations of the many Inuit groups who live there. Draw several circles or "brainstorm bubbles" on the board or chart paper, and label them Weather, Land, Plants, Animals, and the Inuit People. Ask students to call out what they already know about the arctic. Record their ideas in the relevant bubbles, adding new ones if necessary. Review the bubbles, and explain that hunting animals was how the Inuit people survive in a cold environment.

Seal skin was used for clothing, including watertight boots. Seal also provided meat, lamp oil (rendered from blubber) tents, boats, harpoon lines, floats (bladder) and tools (bones). Caribou fur made the warmest clothing. Caribou also provided meat, sinew, blankets, tool (bones), and ornamentation (teeth). Excellent seamstresses were highly valued in traditional Inuit society — indeed a woman who could sew well would be readily sought as a wife. Her family's very survival could be dependant on her sewing skills.

Print or project the tapestry by Mina Napartuk. (It is also featured on the Introduction page of the web exhibition Our Boots: An Inuit Woman's Art.)

Mina Napartuk was born in Kuujjuarapik in 1913. Trained in the traditional way of life, she was an expert in the making of skin and fur garments. At the age of sixty–one she turned her talent to the creation of wall hangings made of pieces of sealskin appliquéd on cloth. Her tapestries depicted vignettes of traditional Inuit life on the land, as it was lived at the point of contact with Europeans. Some of the activities shown in her work are no longer practiced.

This tapestry was commissioned by The Bata Shoe Museum in 1979. It shows the steps that are needed to make a pair of warm, dry boots for a very cold climate, from the seal hunt to the sewing and finishing of the kamiks. Explain that this tapestry shows an important event in life of an Inuit family. Tell the story using The Order of the Day resource. Enlarge or project Worksheet 1 — The Order of the Day and have a whole–group discussion of the sequence of events. Refer to Worksheet 1 — The Order of the Day — Answers for the sequence depicted on the tapestry.

Split the class into 6 groups. Assign a section of the first part of the exhibition to each group, beginning with 'The Land', and ending with 'Sewing Tools'. Ask them to read the page and summarize the information on Group Assignments 1 — 6 — Our Boots. They will then present it to the class. They should also identify where the topic of their section is depicted on the tapestry. Make sure that they read aloud the quote at the beginning of each section. The quotes are primary sources that will help students connect the material to real people.

For the presentations, print or project the tapestry so that the students can make use of it.

Ask students to write a story based on the tapestry from the perspective of one of the characters. For example, they can choose to write about the seal hunt from either the perspective of the seal, the dog, the Inuit boy, or the hunter. Or, they can write about preparing skins and sewing kamiks from the perspective of the mother or the little girl.

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