Sealskin boots, made by Mary Amaaq

Iglulingmiut, AD 1995
From Igloolik, Nunavut, eastern Canadian Arctic

Traditionally, the people of Igloolik made a variety of different types of footwear used for different purposes in different seasons. In winter, for instance, a hunter would wear a pair of socks (aliqsiik), a pair of boots (kamiik) and, during the coldest part of winter, a pair of external thermal slippers. Today, the people of Igloolik still prefer traditional footwear in winter when outside for long periods of time. This is because skin boots breathe. Manufactured boots allow sweat to accumulate, which may freeze and cause frostbite.

Waterproof boots, such as these made by Mary Amaaq of Igloolik in 1995, are made of water-repellent shaved sealskin, and sewn with a 'waterproof stitch'. To make a seam waterproof, the seamstress stitches only halfway through the skin. She would use a needle with a smaller diameter than the thread, making sure that the thread fills the hole left by the needle. The preferred material for thread is sinew, which expands when wet, thus additionally filling the hole.

Find in the collection online

Sealskin boots, made by Mary Amaaq

Sealskin boots, made by Mary Ammaq

  • Sealskin boots with decoration

    Sealskin boots with decoration


More information


J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

B.K. Issenman, Sinew of survival: the living (Vancouver, UBC Press, 1997)

J.E. Oakes and R. Riewe, Our boots: an Inuit womans art (New York, Thames and Hudson, 1996)


Height: 27.000 cm (1996.Am3.12ab)
Length: 21.000 cm (soles)
Width: 9.000 cm (soles)

Museum number

AOA 1996.Am3.12ab



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore