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Notes from DaVic Gallery: ‘Moving Camp’ – The Inuit had different methods of travel depending on the season. In the winter they traveled across the frozen Arctic either by foot or dog sled. During the summer they took advantage of the open water and traveled by boat. The Inuit people made two types of boats: the kayak and the umiak. Kayaks were small, lightweight boats mainly used for hunting. Kayaks were one-person wood frame boats covered with sealskin. They were built to be lightweight, and easy to paddle and maneuver in the water. Sealskin skirts were wrapped around the occupant’s waist to prevent water from entering the boat. Umiaks were large, open boats mainly used for travel.
Umiaks were open, wooden, skin-covered boats. They were larger than kayaks, 7-10 m long and 2.5 m wide, and could carry between 10 and 15 people. They were generally used to move from camp to camp, and to hunt larger sea mammals, like whales. Usually the women did the rowing, while the men steered the boat.
The Inuit lived nomadic lifestyles, so they did not stay in one place for an extended period of time. Since hunting and fishing was their main source of food, they were forced to move around, following the seasonal migration patterns of area animals. Caribou, muskoxen, and seals all gathered in large groups for their seasonal migrations, and the Inuit followed them closely. During the winter the Inuit mostly lived in coastal areas where they could hunt seals. Temporary winter camps or villages had up to 100 people living there. They used sleds pulled by dogs to travel great distances on the ice, and lived in temporary igloos.
During the spring and summer months, the Inuit started moving inland in smaller groups, usually fewer than a dozen people. There, they spent more time fishing and hunting caribou. In the summer the lived in animal skin tents and traveled by foot and boat.