Inside look at the Inuits

Inuit art. Last year we traveled to Alaska and got to see Inuit art up close and personal. We took a side trip to a village, a living history museum, where we got just a small taste of the way life was for generations of Inuit people. Our native guides were two college-age young women who quite obviously loved telling the Inuits’ story.

The Inuits throughout the village who shared their stories and told of their ancestors’ way of life were passionate about and proud of who they were and where they came from. They have a reverence for their past, and feel it’s their duty to pass along Inuit history and knowledge to each new generation.

We learned all about building fish traps from a youngster whose grandfather stood proudly behind him as he showed us how it was constructed – the same way it had been done for generations – and told us how it worked. We saw a mother-daughter team smoking fish, using the same methods their ancestors used.

Though most of the Inuit crafts we saw were useful items that contributed to daily survival in the cold North, the work could be very beautiful as well. The most memorable example was a coat, modeled in the picture by one of our guides. An Inuit woman was applying the intricate beadwork by hand, each bead individually placed and sewn in place. The native woman, whose work is shown in numerous museums including the Smithsonian, told us how her grandmother taught her mother, and how her mother taught her. She is now teaching the craft to the next generations.

When a family heirloom is passed from one generation to the next, it’s not just a piece of furniture or jewelry. Like the Inuits, it’s a remembrance of someone from our past and it should be valued for not only its beauty and usefulness, but as a piece of our history, of those who came before us.

A reverence and respect for the past. That’s just one of the reasons we love antiques.

Do you have a cherished heirloom, perhaps handed down through several generations? Does it have an interesting history that you can share when you pass it on to the next generation? Email, or write us at 700 E State St., Iola, WI 54945 to tell us your heirloom’s story.

Sandra Sparks
Associate Editor