Ernest William Hawkes.

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Book -zC



Hon. P E. Blondin, Minister; R. G. McConnei.l, Deputy Minisiek.



No. 14, Anthropologicai. Series

The Labrador Eskimo

E. W. Hawkes


Government Printing Bureau


No. 1637



Hon. p. E. Blondin, Minister; R. G. McConnell, Deputy Minister.



No. 14, Anthropological Series

The Labrador Eskimo


E. W. Hawkes

Government Printing Bureau
A No. 1637

D. of D,
JUN 18 1917



Preface ix

Historical sketch of the Labrador Eskimo 1

The Skraelings 1

Early relations with the French and English 2

Cartwright and the southern Eskimo 6

The work of the Moravian missions 10

Labrador: physical characteristics and distribution of population 14

Character of the country 14

Ancient distribution of Eskimo 16

Statistics of Eskimo population 19

Tribal divisions and place-names 22

Racial boundaries 24

Hunting territories 25

Climate 25

Ice 26

Snow 27

The Eskimo year 28

Names of stars 29

Food 29

Varieties of Labrador seal and other sea mammals 30

Land mammals 32

Minor foods 33

Berries 34

Medicinal plants - 36

Clothing 38

Dickys 38

Ornamentation 39

Trousers 40

Socks 41

Boots 41

Shoes 41

Dressing and making up of skins 42

Dressing deerskin 42

Smoking deerskin 42

Dressing and making of sealskin clothing 43

Boots 43

Vamps 46

Shoes 47

Waterproof stitching 48

Mittens 48

Waterproof mittens 50

Cap 52



Trousers 53

Cartridge bag 54

Men's tobacco-bag 54

Woman's tobacco-bag 55

Dicky 56

Hoyses 58

Snow-houses 58

Stone iglus 60

Whalebone houses 61

Camping houses 62

The summer tent 63

Transportation 64

The dog-sled and dog driving 64

The umiak 68

The kayak 71

Hunting and fishing 73

Hunting weapons 73

The equipment of the kayaker 73

Sealing harpoon 74

Lance 76

Seal-hook 76

Bird-spear 76

The bow and arrow 79

The bow-case 81

Hunting large game 82

Hunting small game 85

Traps 85

Snares 86

Fishing 87

Household tools and utensils 88

Lamps and kettles 88

Dishes and other receptacles 92

Scrapers 93

Knives 94

The drill 97

Pipes 98

Needle-cases 99

Art 100

Work in ivory 100

Work in wood 101

Work in cloth and fur 101

Work in basketry 102

Tattooing 105

Social organization and social customs 108

Punishment and murder 108

Headmen 110



Birth Ill

Childhood 113

Marriage 114

Morality 115

Death 118

Burial 119

Games 120

Games of chance 120

Cat's cradle 121

Dolls 122

Music 122

Religion 124

Torngarsoak and Superguksoak 124

The Inua and Tornait 127

The angekut 128

Divining 132

Head-lifting 133

Taboos 133

Fetishes and amulets 135

The life after death 136

Ceremonies 139

Whaling festival 139

The "sculping" (skinning) dance 140

Mythology 141

The migration legend 142

The Tunnit • 143

Tunnit houses 146

Tunnit boots 146

Interpretation of the evidence 146

The last of the Tunnit 148

Alasuq and the giant 150

An Adlit tale 151

The girl who lived among the Adlit 151

Origin of man and the animals 152

Origin of the winds and rain 153

The heavenly regions 153

The regions below 153

The place where the caribou live 154

How the trout was made 155

The quarrel of the crow and the gull 155

The girl who married a whale 155

The story of the sun and moon 156

The story of the fox-wife 156

The son who killed his mother 157

The orphan boy and the moon man 158

The story of the lame hunter 159



The thinking image 159

Origin of the walrus and caribou 160

The owl and the raven 160

The origin of the sea-pigeons , 161

How the caribou lost their large eyes 161

Eskimo incantation for game 162

Phonetic system 163

Bibliography 164


Map 156 A, No. 1560. Eskimo tribes of the Labrador peninsula,

northern Quebec in pocket.

Plate I. A. Eskimo girl in duf?le dicky and moleskin trousers. . 167

B. Killinek Eskimo woman in cotton dicky and seal-

skin trousers, back view 167

C. Killinek Eskimo woman, front view 167

II. A. Caribou skin dicky from Cape Chidley 169

B. Man's sealskin dicky from Cape Wolstenholme. . . 169

III. A. (a) Combination legging and boot from east coast

of Hudson bay; (b) skin boot from Hamilton

inlet; (c) skin boot from Davis inlet 171

B. Sealskin trousers from Cape Wolstenholme 171

IV. (a) Child's sealskin bonnet; (b) baby's fur cap; (c)

hareskin cap; (d) birdskin cap; (e) squirrel-
skin cap 173

V. (a) Beaded breast ornament; (b) fur "beads"; (c)

pair of ear ornaments; (d) beaded band 175

VI. (a) Gut raincoat; (b) gut trousers 177

VII. (a) Slipper worn inside boot ; (b) corrugated sole; (c)
fur slipper; (d) child's shoe; (e) woman's shoe;

(f) caribou moccasin 179

VIII. A. (a) Tobacco bag with pipe cleaner; (b) caribou

skin bag; (c) cloth shot bag; (d) loonskin bag. 181
B. (a) Sealskin waterproof mitten; (b) man's tanned
deerskin mitten ; (c and d) pair of embroidered

cloth mittens 181

IX. (a) Bag made from leg of deer; (b) sealskin bag 183

X. (a, b, c, and d) Sealskin mittens 185

XI. A. Completed snow-house with boy sitting on key-
block 187

B. Caribou skin tents of Eskimo fishermen, Cape

Chidley 187

XII. Eskimos of Great Whale river, Labrador 189

XIII. A. Dog-team viewed from behind 191

B. Process of building a komatik 191




Plate XIV. A. (a) Model of kayak, from Norton sound, Alaska;

(b) model of kayak from Ungava bay 193

B. (a) Model of komatik with seal load, from Cape

Chidley; (b) wooden model of sleigh or koma-
tik, from Labrador I93

(a) Model of kayak; (b) model of deerskin baidarka;

(c) model of umiak or sealskin boat 195

(a-e) Arrows from northern coast of Labrador; (f) bow

from Labrador; (g) bow from east coast of
Labrador; (h) bow from northern coast of

Labrador J97

(a) Quiver; (b) ptarmigan snare; (c) sling 199

A. (a) Stone lamp from Cape Chidley; (b) large stone
lamp with ridge, from Okkak, Labrador. . . . 201

B. (a) Small stone lamp from Okkak, Labrador; (b)
stone lamp from Cape Chidley; (c) model of
soapstone lamp from Okkak; (d) soapstone
lamp from Chesterfield inlet 201

(a) Stone kettle from Cape Chidley; (b) large stone

kettle from Okkak, Labrador 203

(a and b) Model of sealskin dish and bailer; (c) small
kettle from Cape Chidley; (d) model of stone
kettle from Baffin island 205

(a) Large wooden spoon from Hamilton inlet; (b)
wooden spoon from Hamilton inlet; (c)
wooden dish from Hamilton inlet 207

A. (a) Scraper made from leg bone of reindeer from
Eskimo point; (b) ditto from Mistake bay;
(c and d) "firestones" of pyrites; (e) bone
scraper from Hudson bay 209

B. (a) Ivory snow-knife with bone handle; (b) ulu or
woman's knife; (c) stone knife 209

A. (a) Small whetstone from Cape Chidley; (b) beaver
tooth knife for carving; (c) slate knife; (d and
e) crooked knives from Cape Chidley; (f)
whetstone from Cape Wolstenholme 211

B. (a and b) Bow-drill (mouthpiece, drill, and bow);
(c) caribou horn-handled awl or knife; (d and
e) knives with horn handles, from Eskimo
point 211

(a-f) Ivory needle cases; (g) ivory comb; (h) ivory

pendant; (i) stone pipe 213

(a) Ivory carving of man in kayak with hunting outfit;
(b) ivory carving of Eskimo woman; (c)
ivory carving of Eskimo man; (d and e) ivory
sled and dog-team 215








Plate XXVI. (a and b) Ivory carvings of knives; (c) ivory carving
of powder horn; (d) ivory model of gun; (e)
ivory model of boots; (f) ivory model of bag. . 217
XXVII. A. (a) Ivory carving of whale; (b) ivory carving of
walrus; (c) ivory model of seal; (d) stone
carving of fish; (e) ivory carving of narwhal;

(f) ivory carving of white whale 219

B. (a) Ivory carving of fox; (b) ivory carving of polar
bear; (c) ivory carving of reindeer; (d) ivory
carving of bear; (e) ivory carving of musk-ox;
(f and g) ivory carvings of wolves on the trail 219

XXVIII. A and B. Eskimo girls in winter costume 221

XXIX. A. (a) Tobacco pouch; (b) child's moccasin 223

B. (a) Man's fur mitten with fur applique work; (b
and c) sealskin tobacco pouches; (d) sealskin

tobacco bag 223

XXX. Coiled basketry from Hamilton inlet 225

XXXI. A and B. Coiled basketry from Hamilton inlet 227

XXXII. (a) Ivory "cup and ball" game; (b) six ivory dominoes;

(c) two sets of ivory ducks belonging to game;

(d) miniature human figures used in game. . . . 229

XXXIII. (a) Doll representing woman, from Chesterfield inlet;

(b) doll representing woman from east coast
of Labrador; (c) doll representing man from
east coast of Labrador; (d) doll representing
woman from Baffin island 231

XXXIV. (a) Feet of horned owl, used as amulet ; (b and c)

soapstone figures used as fetishes 233

XXXV. A. Eskimo walled grave, Baffin island 235

B. Eskimo women at Moravian mission in northern

Labrador cutting up white whales 235

Figure 1. Pattern of waterproof skin boot 45

2. Pattern of sealskin slipper for boot 47

3. Pattern of sealskin mitten 48

4. Pattern of deerskin mitten 49

5. Pattern of waterproof mitten 51

6. Pattern of cap 52

7. Pattern of trousers 53

8. Pattern of cartridge bag 54

9. Pattern of old style woman's tobacco pouch 55

10. Pattern of atige 57

11. Camp circles in Labrador 62

12. Detail of masonry of ungaluk in Suglasuk bay 62

13. Double bridle and dog toggles from Labrador 66

14. Dog-whip from east coast of Hudson bay 67



Figure 15. Harpoon with line and shaft, from Ungava 75

16. Manner of attaching the two principal parts of the harpoon 75

17. Killing lance, from Cape Wolstenholme, Labrador 77

18. Seal-hook, from Cape Wolstenholme, Labrador 77

19. (a) Bird-spear, from Cape Wolstenholme, Labrador 77

(b) Bird-dart with two sets of bone points, from Great Whale

river, Labrador 77

20. Throwing-stick from Cape Wolstenholme, Labrador 78

21. Spear thrower, from Great Whale river, Labrador 78

22. Arrow, showing method of attaching point and shank, from

Great Whale river, Labrador 80

23. Arrow, showing method of attaching point and shank, from

northern coast of Labrador 80

24. Arrow, from Great Whale river, Labrador 80

25. Ivory harpoon head with iron point, from Joksut, Labrador 82

26. Bone lance head with iron point, from Eskimo point, west

coast of Hudson bay 84

27. Trout spear, from Cape Wolstenholme, Labrador 88

28. End of limestone kettle, from Coats island 90

29. Bow scraper made from jaw-bone of a narwhal, from Cape

Chidley 93

30. Tattooing on leg and forearm of w^oman, from southern

Baffin island 102

31. Women's tattoo designs 106

32. Men's and women's tattoo designs 107


The following account of the life of the Labrador Eskimo
is the result of a trip undertaken in the season of 1914 to the
coasts of Labrador, for the Geological Survey of Canada. As
the author had already an intimate knowledge of the general
culture of the Eskimo from a three years' residence among them
in Alaska, an attempt was made to cover as much territory as
possible, so as to get a comprehensive view of the culture of the
Eskimo of the entire coast of the Labrador peninsula, and to note
its variations from other sections. With this end in view, the
early part of the summer was spent in Sandwich bay and Hamil-
ton inlet, in an endeavour to ascertain the southern limit of
the Labrador Eskimo, and the remainder of the summer and
autumn in company with the Carnegie Magnetic Expedition^
which continued up the coast as far as Cape Chidley, and then
visited both sides of Hudson strait, and the east coast of Hudson
bay as far south as Cape Dufferin. This completed the circuit
of the Labrador peninsula. The west coast of Hudson bay,
between Port Churchill and Chesterfield inlet, was also visited,
as well as several islands in the bay. A considerable ethnological
and archaeological collection was obtained from these districts.

This paper does not attempt to offer a complete ethnology
of the Labrador Eskimo, but to bring out the main facts of their
life, and particularly those differences which mark them off
as a separate division of the Eskimo world. After all, the
ethnological divisions of the Eskimo are geographical rather
than cultural. The author has drawn on his own experience
for comparisons with the western Eskimo and on standard
authors for other sections.

The ethnological literature on the Labrador Eskimo is
scanty and devoted to sections of Labrador rather than to the
Eskimo of the Labrador peninsula as a whole. Turner's inter-
esting account is limited to Ungava; the Moravian writers have
given us some descriptions of Eskimo life on the east coast,

^Thanks are due to Captain Peters, leader of the expedition, for many courtesies.

from their own standpoint; there is httle information on the
west coast Eskimo except scattered references and a portion in
C. H. and A. T. Leith's "A Summer and Winter on Hudson
Bay." It is hoped that the present work will bring out the
salient features of the Labrador Eskimo culture and serve for
comparative study.

The Labrador Eskimo.



A correct understanding of the present habitat and con-
dition of the Labrador Eskimo is hardly obtainable without a
knowledge of their past history and the remarkable vicissitudes
of fortune through which they have passed. The wiping out
by the combined whites and Indians, of the entire southern
branch south of Hamilton inlet, which remained hostile and pagan
to the last, and the careful nourishing of the northern branch
by Christian missionaries, form one of the many paradoxes
with which the history of native races in their relation to the
whites abounds.

The first mention of Eskimo, supposed to inhabit the present
Labrador, occurs in the Saga of Eric the Red, where the en-
counter of the Northmen with the Skraelings (which should
remind us that the Eskimo were probably the first people met by
the whites in America) is thus described :

"They saw a great number of skin canoes, and staves were
brandished from their boats with a noise like flails, and they
were revolved in the same direction in which the sun moves."^

This is evidently an attempt of the Norse singer to describe
something so unusual to their economy as the appearance of
Eskimo in kayaks (skin boats). The sound of the double-
bladed paddles striking the water might be likened to the action
of flails; while the motion in the air, dipping on one side and then
the other, would give them the appearance of revolving to an

' It is Interesting to note in passing that the movement "as the sun goes" is characteristic
of the turning of the dancers in certain Eskimo ceremonial dances, and that the actual words,
' 'Turn as the light of day (the sun) goes," occur in one of their ceremonies. See Nelson, Eskimo
about Bering strait, 18th Annual Report B.A.E., p. 372.

observer to whom the sight was unusual. Farther on the
Saga reads:

"A great multitude of Skraeling boats were discovered
approaching from the south, and all their staves waved in a di-
rection contrary to the sun." The apparent contradiction is
easily explained. In the first case the kayaks were seen approach-
ing from the north and in the second case from the south, when
the apparent motion of the kayak paddles would be reversed.

Certain writers have attempted to associate this description
of the Skraelings with the Beothuks or the Micmac Indians
but the description of "skin canoes" and revolving paddles
would not apply in this region to any other people than the

The difficulty of finding the Eskimo as far south as Vinland
is not great, when we remember that in the sixteenth century
they inhabited the north shore of the St. Lawrence and might
have extended their wanderings farther south at an earlier
period. Weapons closely resembling those used by the Eskimo
have been dug up in Ontario^ and New York State.^ The
specimens in the Beothuk collection in the museum at St. Johns,
said to be from the Newfoundland coast, show a strong Eskimo
influence. In each case this influence may be due to cultural
borrowing by neighbouring tribes, but when we remember the
summer visits of the Labrador Eskimo to the north of New-
foundland, it is not unlikely that a party may have been seen
by the Norsemen, particularly as the location of this description
has never been definitely ascertained to be farther south.


The next historical trace of the Labrador Eskimo is to
be found in the account of the voyage of John Cabot. He saw
some of the inhabitants of the new land he discovered (presum-
ably Labrador), and brought back "snares for game and needles
for making nets." Harisse, the foremost authority on the early
exploration of Labrador, considers that these are Eskimo

' Wintemberg, Bone and harpoon heads of the Ontario Indians, Archaeological Report of
the Provincial Museum, Toronto, 1905.

' Verbal information from Alanson Skinner, Mus. of the Am. Indian.

utensils. Gosling, on the other hand, in his able and exhaustive
history of Labrador, contends that the Labrador Eskimo had
no knowledge of catching salmon by means of nets, and had
to be instructed in the art by the Moravian missionaries in 1772.^
It is possible that in this case the usually careful author confuses
civilized with native implements. He is certainly mistaken
when he goes on to say that "among the implements of the
Eskimo, which have been many times carefully described,
snares and nets are not mentioned."^ The use of nets for seal
and salmon and of snares for birds is common in Alaska,^ but
rare among the eastern Eskimo. Still, John Davis mentions
the use of nets in Greenland in 1586,^ and Thalbitzer in his recent
publication on the East Greenland Eskimo^ is of the opinion
that nets were used in Greenland in early days. Ancient
implements for making nets have been found there according
to Glahn and Fabricius. Thalbitzer® thinks there is a close
relation between the Labrador Eskimo and the tribes of south
and central Greenland, due to former contact, which shows in
phonetic similarities. If this is true, there may have been a
cultural borrowing, particularly of so useful an instrument as
the net. Boas^ mentions the use of the net by the Labrador
Eskimo, which the Baffin-islanders, who belong culturally
with the north Greenland group, do not employ. Turner
ascribes the use of the net in Ungava to European influence.^
It seems probable, then, that the Labrador Eskimo may have
made nets in older times, but given up their manufacture when
they could procure the civilized article so much more easily
in their summer raids to the south. The Moravians mention
that when they went among them, they found the Labrador
Eskimo well supplied with fishing gear and nets, the results
of their plundering trips to the Gulf of St. Lawrence,

It is generally conceded by historical students that, even
if Cabot landed first in Newfoundland, he continued up the

' Gosling, Labrador, its discovery, exploration and d velopment, p. 29.

- Ibid. p. 30.

' Nelson, The Eskimo about Bering strait, 18th Annual Report B.A.E., pp. 185 sqq.

* "They make nets to take their fish of the finne of the whale." Hakluyt's Voyages, p. 782.

' Thalbitzer, The Ammassalik Eskimo, Copenhagen, 1914, p. 402.

« Thalbitzer, ibid., p. 685.

' Boas, The Central Eskimo, 6th Annual Report B.A.E., p. 516.

' Murdoch, quoting Turner, p. 252.

Labrador coast as far as Hamilton inlet, where he could have
procured "snares for game and needles for net-making" from the
Eskimo of that vicinity.

Sebastian Cabot, son of John Cabot, in his memorable
voyage brought back with him "three savage men," who "were
clothed in the beastes skinnes and ate raw flesh, and spake such
speech that no man could understand them"; these are unde-
niably Eskimo.

Curiously enough, Jacques Cartier does not mention meeting
any Eskimo in the Strait of Belle Isle. Gosling^ takes this as
evidence that the Eskimo did not begin to frequent the Gulf of
St. Lawrence until drawn thither by the desire to obtain iron
tools and fishing gear from the Basque, French, and English
fishermen; but the inference is not conclusive. It might have
been an off year for Eskimo migration, due to disease or some
religious taboo, as often happens, or Cartier might have simply
missed the wandering bands. One thing is certain; when the
French began settling on the coast in 1702 they found the Es-
kimo in considerable numbers on the north shore of the Gulf of
St. Lawrence, as far west as Mingan.

The first attempt to found a permanent settlement on the
Labrador coast was by Courtemanche, about 1704, who estab-
lished a fishing and trading post at Bay Philypeaux, now Bodore.
His concession extended from Kegashet (now the Kegashka
river) to Kessessasskiou (Hamilton inlet). Here, with a party
of forty French-Canadian servants and thirty or forty Monta-
gnais hunters, he lived the life of a grand seigneur, carrying on an
extensive fishery, and trading with the natives. He was greatly
annoyed by the Eskimo in the establishment of his fishing sta-
tions. During the winter, they tore down his stages, destroyed
his nets, and stole his boats. He tried to make peace with them,
but was unsuccessful. The number of Eskimo in southern
Labrador at this time must have been considerable. A con-
temporary anonymous author estimated them at 30,000.^

' Gosling, Op. cit., pp. 165-166.

'This number is evidently an exaggeration. 3,000 would probably be nearer the actual
number. Courtemanche writes that a band who visited him in 1716 numbered about 800.
Palliser made peace at Chateau in 1765 with 400 Eskimo, which may be considered the sur-
vivors, at that date, of the southern bands.

The Eskimo had compelled the Basques to give up their whale
fishery in the strait, and kept up a continual and savage
warfare with the French and Montagnais. The unknown writer
mentioned above, who has left a quaint and charming description
of the life of the French settlement, gives it as his opinion that
"they (the Eskimo) fly from Europeans because they have been
maltreated, fired on, and killed, and if they attack and kill
Europeans it is only in way of reprisal."

Courtemanche was succeeded in 1717 by his son-in-law
Brouage. His reports are an account of continual strife with the
Eskimo. Brouage learned the Eskimo language from a woman
taken captive in Courtemanche's time, and relates some marvel-
lous tales which he obtained from her. He speaks of one tribe
who were dwarfs, 2 or 3 feet high, but remarkably fierce and
active. Have we to do here with the Agdlit, or dog-people, of
Eskimo mythology ? Another tribe had white ( ?) hair from the
time of their birth (possibly the Bear-people) ; another tribe had
one leg, one arm, and one eye (the Illokoq, "longitudinally split
person" of Eskimo myths ?). On Brouage's death, the post was
abandoned. About the same time Labrador, together with the
rest of Canada, fell into the hands of the English.

During the English occupation of Labrador, the Eskimo
continued their depredations in the Strait of Belle Isle.
Bands of them came down each summer, ostensibly to trade, but
in reality to carry off everything they could lay hands on. Their
system of attack was to creep up on the unsuspecting fishermen
in a dense fog, and so terrify them with their unearthly yells
that they would abandon their property and flee. At other
times, when a party presented a bold front, the Eskimo would
advance and engage in trade, but when they had thrown their
adversaries off their guard for a moment, they would attack them
and kill the whole crew. They told the Moravians that they used
to carry knives and arrows for such purposes^ concealed in their
clothing and kayaks.

The fishermen were not behind in retaliation, and shot and
plundered small parties of Eskimo at sight. There was probably

* Courtemanche, writing in 1716, mentions seeing firearms, probably plunder, in possession
of the Eskimo; but it is doubtful if they knew how to use them.

as much wrong on one side as on the other. Whether the Eskimo
or the whites began the trouble originally cannot be ascertained
at this late day. The Eskimo of early Labrador appear to have
been an exceedingly truculent race, as witness their attacks on
early explorers and missionaries, and a knowledge of the terror

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