Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Walrus intestines

Indigenous people from Alaska, Canada, Russia, and Greenland made mammal gut raincoats to protect them from rain and sleet, but they are rarely ever used anymore. These beautifully made raincoats were also sometimes used in ceremonies. These raincoats can be made from bear, walrus, seal, seal lion, and whale intestines.
There are various ways to prepare and make mammal gut raincoats, and each is usually adorned with items such as dyed hair, cormorant feathers, and other items depending on the region where they are made. The intestines were inflated by mouth, but some inovative women began inflating them with bicyle pumps. In some regions, grass was sewn into the seams so when the mammal gut raincoat got wet, the grass swelled and made the seams water proof. Each Native dialect has a word for mammal gut raincoats. The Aleut call them Kamleikas, the Inupiaq call them imarnin, the Yup’ik call them immarenin, the Cup’ig from Nunivak Island call them imarniteg, the Nunavik from Quebec, Canada call them akuilitaq, and the GreenLand Natives call them kapisaq. In any language, these mammal gut raincoats are amazing, and show how indigenous people wasted nothing, and were able to make any part of a mammal useful.

Nunivak woman imarniteg, Nunivak Island, late 1990's

Hunters in kayak, c1909

Man wearing mammal gut raincoat.

Picture taken in Gambell, Alaska