Objectified: The Story of an Inuinnait Parka from the Canadian Museum of Civilization

Thesis (PDF Available) · December 2012with 183 Reads
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.21202.25282
Cite this publication
Objectified: The Story of an Inuinnait Parka from the
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Christina Williamson
A Research Essay submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and
Postdoctoral Affairs in fulfillment of the requirements for the
course HIST 5908, as credit toward the degree of
Master of Arts
Public History
Carleton University
Ottawa, Ontario
© 2012 Christina Williamson
This study traces the history of a one hundred year old caribou skin garment, beginning
with the moment the caribou was killed. It assesses how an Inuinnait woman sewed this
men’s dancing garment and how, during the Canadian Arctic Expedition, Vihljalmur
Stefansson collected it to bring down to Ottawa where it became part of the Canadian
Museum of Civilization’s collection. A few short years later, anthropologist Diamond
Jenness loaned the kapitaq to Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye who used it in her stage
performances of Folk Songs. Finally, the kapitaq sit in cold storage in the Museum,
what does it mean to us today? The kapitaq offers a revealing look not only into the
history of Inuit clothing production, Canadian collecting practices and Romantic
understandings of the “Indian” through performance, but also tells us how, in the
present, we expect museum objects to act. This discrepancy of expectations offers
insight into changing expectations and identities of the kapitaq.
How does a person say everything that they need to say in such a short space? I suppose
everyone talks about how their work would never have been complete without the help
and support of their families, their supervisors, friends and colleagues. I am no different.
I want to first of all thank my supervisors, Drs. David Dean and Michel Hogue. Their
knowledge, expertise and mentorship was everything. Most importantly, their support
and good humour helped me make the three-month turnaround between proposal
acceptance and MRE submission actually possible. Our sessions are bright spots in my
time at Carleton.
I want to also thank Dr. Ruth Philips. It was thanks to her that the idea of working on
material culture in a Public History MA even occurred to me. My MRE would look very
different if it weren’t for her. She once asked me if I ever thought of doing a PhD. I said
that I didn’t think I was good enough. She proved me wrong.
I hope that this paper contributes something to the Canadian Museum of Civilization,
whose incredible employees made this possible. Thank you to Jonathan Wise for
helping me find a topic! His time and willingness to help me every step of the way
made my research an absolute joy. Thanks to Noeline Martin, whose work on the
Gaultier files made my job as a researcher easier than I ever could have hoped. To Judy
Hall and Nathalie Guénette for being so generous with their time and letting me meet
the kapitaq.
Thanks to everyone in the department. To all of the other professors in the department
that shared hallway conversations with me: I learned more in the 4th floor hallway of
Paterson Hall than I ever have in a classroom. Thanks to Joan White who kept me (and
everyone else) in line during this journey.
My fellow classmates both MA and PhD made my time in Ottawa so much fun. Thank
you especially to Meghan Lundrigan and Christina Parsons, I am lucky to have such
great friends that always kept things in perspective.
To my family who even 3,365km away kept me going with their incredible love and
emotional support. Words cannot express.
To Diamond Jenness, to Juliette Gaultier to Vihljalmur Stefansson, and to Marius
Barbeau. This story would never have been as good as it was without their larger-than-
life personalities.
I dedicate my research to the woman who made the kapitaq. I may not know your name,
but I hope that this is a way to remember you.
Table of Contents
Abstract ........................................................................................................................... ii
Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................ iii
List of Illustrations .......................................................................................................... v
Prologue ............................................................................................................................ 1
Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 4
Production and Construction: From Caribou to Clothes ............................................ 7
Collecting the Pieces: The Canadian Arctic Expedition and Salvage Ethnology .... 21
That’s Show Biz, Kid: Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye .......................................... 35
Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 59
Bibliography ................................................................................................................... 62
List of Illustrations
Figure 1 “Miss Juliette Gaultier, possibly wearing an Esquimalt or Inuit suit, during the Canadian Folk
Song an Handicrafts Festival at the Chateau Frontenac, in Quebec City, Quebec, 1928.” CMC B563, F4.
Figure 2 Kapitaq CMC IV-D-1116. Photograph taken by author.!___________________________________________!3!
Figure 3 Ikpakhuak’s drawing of a caribou drive from Life of the Copper Eskimo by Jenness p. 151.!_____!9!
Figure 4 Skinning Caribou by Helen Kalvak, 1975, Gift of Charles Moore, University of Alberta Art
Collection 2005.2.9!_________________________________________________________________________________________!10!
Figure 5 Kringarodlik is wearing only his inner parka the ilupaq.!________________________________________!12!
Figure 6 An example of a Qulitaq.!__________________________________________________________________________!14!
Figure 7 “Ikpukhuak and his wife Higilak at Bernard Harbour, Northwest Territories (Nunavut).” By
George Wilkins. CMC Historical Photos 51232!___________________________________________________________!15!
Figure 8 Loon Bill bonnet worn by Gaultier CMC IV-D-1107. Note the bonnet is “face down.”
Photograph by author.!______________________________________________________________________________________!17!
Figure 9 Dance by Helen Kalvak, 1974. Gift of Charles Moore. University of Alberta Art Collection
Figure 10 “Diamond Jenness packing specimens on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory”!________________!24!
Figure 11 This longer men’s parka was made by Kenmek Klengenberg and collected by Diamond Jenness
in Coppermine River in 1916. Donated by Stuart E. Jenness, 1987. CMC IV-E-1229.!___________________!27!
Figure 12 IV-D-1116 Front view. Photographed by author.!_______________________________________________!32!
Figure 13 IV-D-1116 Back view. Photographed by author.!_______________________________________________!32!
Figure 14 “Nutainna, a Copper Inuk man, on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories.”!_________________!33!
Figure 15 “Nutainna, a Copper Inuk man, on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories,”!_________________!33!
Figure 16 The ink marking on the inside of the hood of IV-D-1116. Photograph by author.!_____________!35!
Figure 17 B563 F4 Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye in 1927!_____________________________________________!37!
Figure 18 A detail on the tail of IV-D-1116 where Gaultier presumably stitched up a rip.!_______________!46!
Figure 19 A detail of the dancing bonnet where Gaultier stitched up the neck straps.!____________________!47!
Figure 20 The back view of IV-D-1116. Photograph by the author.!_______________________________________!48!
Figure 21 Juliette Gaultier in a Town Hall promotional photo in New York City, 1927. CMC Archives
B327 F1.!_____________________________________________________________________________________________________!51!
Figure 22 Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye possibly taken in Paris in 1937. CMC Archives B 327, F1.!53!
It is thrilling to finally stand in front of the parka that I had already spent so many
hours researching. I look at the 1928 photo of singer Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye
dressed in a parka and back at the old parka before me (Fig. 1). Accession number IV-
D-1116. It was a match! Nathalie Guénette, from the Canadian Museum of Civilization,
moved the parka closer to me –wearing white gloves so as to not directly touch the
parka. I wanted to touch it: to feel the texture and the weight. But it was a museum
artifact, and I do not have that privilege.
Pulled out of cold storage, thawed, and placed on white padded foam and acid-
free paper, it was now a relic existing in a space so appreciably different from where it
was made almost one hundred years before. To think that we now treat it with such
reverence when it had experienced so much use in its early years! Up close, it was clear
just how much it really was used; this was not a sacred relic when it was first made.
Rather, it was an article of clothing, critical to survival in the cold, but more
importantly, a fancy outfit to wear in the long winter nights in the dance house on
Victoria Island.
This type of parka is known as a kapitaq. It was not a relic when it was catalogued
into the museum in 1921. Back then it was simply an example to fit into a categorical
box: Ethnology—check; Inuit—check; Copper Inuit —check; clothing —check; men’s
—check. Later, Ottawan Juliette Gaultier, an opera singer-turned folksinger proudly
wore this kapitaq as a costume for the Inuit portions of her folk song performances. It
was a real, authentic costume. Now, here I am, examining the parka as a researcher in
another phase in its long story. I begin to take its photograph with my camera. The
photos will be donated to the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the kapitaq’s home.1
Figure 1 “Miss Juliette Gaultier, possibly wearing an Esquimalt or Inuit suit, during the Canadian Folk
Song an Handicrafts Festival at the Chateau Frontenac, in Quebec City, Quebec, 1928.” CMC B563, F4.
Nathalie gently turns the kapitaq over and I examine the back side of the caribou
skin. The fur is worn right off the tail of the parka, the use of this object is evident and
hints to its long story. “Poor Condition” is how the artifact card describes it. I think that
it makes it all the more interesting. The museum has parkas in far better condition to
1 I was the first to digitize images of the kapitaq and to use them as part an online exhibit about the
parka for a small class project. In it, I reflected on how my digitization of the kapitaq was just another
moment in its lifetime.
exhibit so this kapitaq will never be on display for the public. I see those marks and
wear as the embodiment of its story.
Figure 2 Kapitaq CMC IV-D-1116. Photograph taken by author.
In his article, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as a Process,”
Igor Kopytoff proposes the value of using biography to examine objects and things. He
argues that things become commodities when they are culturally marked as something
that matters, thus highlighting the “moral economy” that stands behind the visible
transactions.2 Margaret Mead argues that the value of biography lies in understanding a
culture’s concept of what makes a successful social career, and Kopytoff suggests that
objects could benefit from the same kind of examination. We may ask similar questions
of objects as we would of people. Most revealing of all is the biographical expectations
that we have for those things.3 In effect, when a prized artwork is destroyed, we feel a
pang of loss; when we throw a plastic bottle in the recycling, we might feel a sense of
civic pride. These different feelings reveal our understandings of what those objects
should “do.” The story of the kapitaq is most revealing of our own conceptualizations of
museum artifacts and their inherent value.
The kapitaq serves as a central thread to study some historical periods that are not
often considered together by outlining the different moments in its life, from its origins
as a caribou skin to its subsequent incarnations as a dancing garment in the Canadian
Arctic, an example of scientific classification, and a performer’s costume, and finally as
an object of my own gaze and research. Its phases over the last century are fascinating
on their own, but while reading this story, I encourage you to be reflexive and consider
2 Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process,” in The Social
Life of Things (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 64.
3 Ibid., 66.
how you feel about what happens to the kapitaq. These feelings are telling about your
values and expectations about the proper life cycle for this object. These feelings also
will differ from the way the people in the kapitaq’s story felt about it and understood it.
These discrepant emotions for the kapitaq between past and present is why this object’s
history is so valuable.
An Inuinnait (Copper) Inuk woman made the parka between 1914 and 1916.4 It
found its way into the Canadian Geological Survey’s (CGS) collections in 1921, thanks
to the Canadian Arctic Expedition’s (CAE) collecting efforts. Headed by the gregarious
explorer Vihljalmur Stefansson and zoologist Rudolph Anderson, the CAE visited the
Western Canadian Arctic in 1913 in order to map the region, and to collect ethnological,
geological, botanical, zoological specimens that would then be added to the CGS
collection.5 One of the CAE’s anthropologists, Diamond Jenness, played a particularly
important part in the kapitaq’s story. Jenness studied the Inuinnait extensively and he
loaned the kapitaq to Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye, who used the kapitaq for her
performances. Her connections to National Museum of Canada anthropologist Marius
Barbeau and later, Jenness, allowed her to gain access to numerous artifacts in the
collection for use in her concerts. Most of the items were returned in 1958, including the
4 The old term used by anthropologists was Copper Eskimo, today these people prefer the name
Inuinnait, which is what will be used for this research paper. Also note that Inuit means “The People” but
Inuk is the singular form meaning one individual person of Inuit origin.
5 This institution has a long and convoluted history of name changes and began as the Canadian
Geological Survey in 1856. Over time it split up into several different museums including the Museum of
Nature, the National Gallery and much later, the Science and Technology Museum. The Anthropological
collection was moved to the Victoria Memorial Museum in 1910 and was known as the National Museum
of Canada in 1927. It was renamed the National Museum of Man in 1968 and in 1989 the collections
were moved to Gatineau (Hull), Quebec and called the Canadian Museum of Civilization. It was recently
announced that the Museum would change its name once again and will be called the Canadian Museum
of History. I will refer to this institution with the name that is appropriate for the time period being
kapitaq, which was much worse for wear after its many performances over thirty-one
years. The kapitaq held many identities since it was made and those identities placed on
it reflect many important moments in the history of Canadian museums and
anthropology. Following Kopytoff’s arguments, the changing understandings of what
the parka was in different moments and places reveals what we expect to be a “good
career” for the kapitaq.
There were many potential ways of writing the biography of the parka and the pull
to try to see the kapitaq from every possible facet was tempting. The kapitaq can be
understood in terms of art history, museum policy, salvage ethnography, object theory,
its performance of itself and of a particular idea of Indianness.6 Instead, I decided to
approach its study chronologically and to follow its timeline because it allows me to
touch on each of these subjects. This also allowed me to focus on the rhetoric of salvage
ethnography and imperialism so present in its history. This strategy emphasizes the idea
of an object’s life and breathes a kind of life into it. Its very materiality and presence
play an important role in its own history. It is easy to see how people affect objects, but
we do not necessarily like to think that objects affect us. This biography will
6 When dealing with topics that have a focus on Aboriginal people and imperialism, a few terms
need to be clarified. I use the term Indian as Philip Deloria uses it: an imaginary set of expectations and
understandings of what an “Indian” is. When I wish to speak of specific Aboriginal people, I try to use the
specific term for those particular people, or if I am speaking in a more general way, I use the umbrella
term “Aboriginal. Also note the term “authentic,” appears here in the spirit of playfulness. I may use this
term the way the people I study in the first half of the twentieth century use it, but I often use it in a
reflexive and ironic tone. For a more extensive consideration of the politics of authenticity as it pertains to
Aboriginal peoples, see Paige Raibmon. Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounters from the Late-
Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005). She problematizes the
understanding of what is authentic. She argues that it is not a stable understanding of something that is
real, rather it is a set of shifting ideas. Raibmon argues that this concept of authenticity was a central
component of the “colonial cosmology.” Raibmon focused on the expectations of the majority Euro-
American culture of what made an Indian real, it was a static, binary understanding of what was a “real”
Indian. It is a veritable laundry list of characteristics: uncivilized, traditional, cultural, static, part of nature
and the past.
demonstrate that the examination of one particular object is a valuable exercise in
historical analysis and thus highlights the value of object histories. The kapitaq prompts
a way of knowing Canada’s colonial history in the context of museums, collecting and
musical performance. I will trace the changes of meaning surrounding this parka and the
significance of those meanings within those divergent contexts, most importantly, I
want to examine how people are in conversation with the kapitaq and how we, today
understand those conversations.
Production and Construction: From Caribou to Clothes
Although we cannot say exactly where the kapitaq was collected or the name of
the maker, we can still discuss the way that it was created. Historical records from
members of the CAE, modern works by Jillian E. Oakes and Judy Hall, as well as the
kapitaq itself reveal a great deal of information about how the kapitaq maker worked.
The name of the maker cannot be determined at this point in the research, but it is still
possible to tell a story about how it was crafted, how it was used, and what kind of
person once wore it. By proposing a possible history of the kapitaq’s creation, we can
see how much work and time was invested in something that was far more than a
practical warm coat. It expressed the maker’s worldview and displayed the social
position of the man who wore it.
The Inuinnait who lived in Victoria Island had access to Peary caribou and would
often use the sub-species to make their skin garments. This kind of caribou have lighter
coats and more white on their bellies than barren-ground caribou.7 The caribou that
made the kapitaq was probably caught in the fall season, which was the best time to
hunt caribou for skins for clothes.8 During this part of the season, caribou drives were
the most effective way of dispatching large numbers of caribou by creating barricades
made of lines of rocks with women and children making wolf calls to drive the caribou
to the desired location. Ikpakhuak, and his family adopted ethnologist Diamond Jenness,
drew a sketch of one such caribou drive (Fig. 3).9 It offers a view of how the hunt was
set up spatially and how the caribou whose skin became the kapitaq might have died.
Once the caribou was killed, the skin was removed by making a slit from the throat to
the tail, from the hocks of the knees to the thigh then connecting to the belly (Fig. 4).
The skin was then peeled off the carcass from the rump and over the head of the
animal.10 The hunter undresses the caribou, to dress himself.
When does the kapitaq become what it will be? When it was the skin of a living
breathing animal, we cannot help but see its agency; the skin grows fur and sheds it as
the season dictates, it protects the caribou from warble flies and other biting insects. The
7 Jill E Oakes, Copper and Caribou Inuit Skin Clothing Production, Mercury Series Paper 118
(Hull, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1991), 8. The other subspecies of Caribou that the
Inuinnait hunt are the barren-ground Caribou (rangifer tarandus groenlandicus) found across northern
Canada and are famous for their mass migrations of thousands of kilometers every year. The barren-
ground caribou are also present on Victoria Island, but migrate to the mainland. This particular species of
caribou is more associated with the Caribou Inuit. The Peary Caribou (rangifer tarandus pearyi) are
found further north and do not migrate to the extent of the barren-ground Caribou. The Peary caribou
have been listed as endangered since 1991.
8 Bernadette Driscoll-Engelstad, “Dance of the Loon: Symbolism and Continuity in Copper Inuit
Ceremonial Clothing,Arctic Anthropology 42, no. 1 (2005): 38; Judy Hall et al., Sanatujut: Pride in
Women’s Work: Copper and Caribou Inuit Clothing Traditions (Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of
Civilization, 1994), 16.
9 Diamond Jenness, The Life of the Copper Eskimo, vol. 12, Report of the Canadian Arctic
Expedition 1913-1918 (Ottawa: F. A. Ackland, 1922), 151.
10 Diamond Jenness, Material Culture of the Copper Eskimo, vol. 16 (Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier,
1946), 7.
skin moves and twists with the caribou. When that caribou is taken down, does the
caribou now simply become a thing? Does its skin? During this liminal period, the thing
transforms from a carcass to something that will be useful to the people who killed it. It
is at first something that was alive, but with the death of the caribou, is the skin dead
too? In a purely biological manner, it is; blood no longer flows through it and it no
longer transpires. It would rot and end the life cycle of the skin in a relatively short
time. However, this skin did not rot.
Figure 3 Ikpakhuak’s drawing of a caribou drive from Life of the Copper Eskimo by Jenness p. 151.
The kapitaq maker, as an experienced seamstress, spent about eight hours over
several days to tan the hide. She rubbed bloodstains out with snow and blood-caked fur
cleaned in water.11 The kapitaq maker began by drying the skin. In the period this
kapitaq was made, women carried the skins on long poles on their backs during the
summer migration and laid the skins out on the ground to dry when the group stopped
travelling.12 In the winter, she dried the skin over a blubber lamp.13 Jenness noted that
11 Oakes, Inuit Skin Clothing, 106.
12 Jenness, Material Culture, 16:8.
13 Oakes, Inuit Skin Clothing, 106.
men also assisted in the skinning of furs, particularly in the fall, when completing sets
of winter clothing was critical before winter arrived in force.14 Younger women joined
the men in the hunting beyond the role that every member of the community played in a
caribou drive.15 In fact, in the Ikpakhuak’s drawing, it is a woman who is herding the
caribou towards the men with bows at the bottom of the drawing (Fig. 3).
Figure 4 Skinning Caribou by Helen Kalvak, 1975, Gift of Charles Moore, University of Alberta Art
Collection 2005.2.9
Once dried, the maker would scrape the skin for the first time. Blades were made
from black slate prior to 1800s, and copper was used by the late 1800s.16 When this
kapitaq was made, the seamstress probably used a brass, iron or steel bladed scraper; all
popular choices by the time the CAE entered Inuinnait territory. All were materials that
were traded with other Inuit groups. The Inuinnait were not as isolated at the CAE may
have believed. The tool had an antler handle with a tine fitting between her thumb and
14 Jenness, Copper Eskimo, 12:88.
15 Ibid.
16 Oakes, Inuit Skin Clothing, 106.
index finger and another larger tine resting in the palm of her hand.17 The initial scraping
would have taken the maker at least two hours if she was experienced, which, judging
from the quality of the skin of this kapitaq, is a reasonable assumption. Scraping
required strength, muscle control, skill, and time. She held the scraper vertically and
moved from the outer edge of the skin inwards, following the fibre bundles that run
along the neck and spine of the caribou. She scraped the skin until no crackling sound
was made from her tool.18
Next, she bundled up the fur and wetted it with just enough water to dampen the
skin for 24 hours. She then re-stretched the skin with a dull bone or metal scraper. As an
Inuinnait woman she probably sat on the floor, sleeping surface or other flat surface,
and kneeled on the skin to scrape the fur. To keep the fur from drying, she folded it onto
itself except for the area she was scraping.19 Some women then froze the skin for up to a
week. This causes the cells to rupture, further softening the skin when thawed. The
partially thawed skin was wrung and twisted to make it more pliable. Modern Inuinnait
and Caribou Inuit both recall a time that the tanner would stand on the skin and clamp
their teeth on the skin, pulling it out of their mouths to make the skin velvety-soft and
pliable.20 This caribou skin was now a hide, ready for use.
The hides for the kapitaq created something that has a life and experience beyond
what the maker could have imagined when she first began to cut out the pattern and sew
17 Ibid.
18 Ibid., 107.
19 Ibid., 110.
20 Ibid., 111.
the hides together.21 This creation into a garment only slowed the process of
decomposition that began the moment the arrow or spear entered the caribou. Despite
the efforts of conservationists, ultimately all things disintegrate and rot, and this kapitaq
will rot one day too, though it had a much longer life than the maker undoubtedly
intended for it.
Figure 5 Kringarodlik is wearing only his inner parka the ilupaq.
“Kringarodlik, an Inuk Man, at Cape Wollaston, Northwest Territories, 1916.”
By Rudolph Anderson, CMC Historical Photographs CMC 39406.
There is one rule for dressing in cold conditions, whether a thousand years ago, a
hundred years ago, or today: dress in layers. According to Jenness:
A man (or woman) of fashion and influence could possess, besides two
suits of everyday working clothes, one for summer and one for winter, a
thick set of heavy winter clothing for travelling and visiting, and a
lighter set of short-haired summer skins ornamented with coloured
21 To see a video of an Inuinnait woman sewing skins during the CAE, visit:
http://www.civilization.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/cae/av/video/col110video4e.shtml. The following video
shows a woman working with a skin and an ulu: http://www.civilization.ca/cmc
bands and insertions, fringes and appendages of various kinds to wear
in the dance-house on ceremonial occasions.22
In this passage, Jenness described several articles of clothing. In the early 1900s,
the Inuinnait wore an ilupaq, which is an inner coat, the fur side of the skin was placed
against the wearer’s bare skin (Fig. 5). If it was a warm day, this was often all that was
worn, particularly in casual and working situations. The kapitaq IV-D-1116 is a
decorated outer parka where the fur faces outwards. This particular garment is what
Jenness described as used for dance-house and ceremonies. Less decorated work and
daily kapitaq were also worn. The ilupaq and kapitaq were typically made of the shorter
and lighter summer caribou though sometimes they were made in winter caribou skins if
warmth was a priority.23
When a person had to be outside in very cold conditions especially for extended
periods, a qulitaq was worn over top of the ilupaq and kapitaq (Fig. 6). The qulitaq was
the heavy winter overcoat made of winter caribou and instead of the short front waist
and long tail of the ilupaq and kapitaq, the qulitaq was long in both front and back and
required two skins.24 The ilupaq normally required only one caribou skin whereas the
kapitaq used two skins because of the decorations.25 With the addition of the two pairs
of trousers, the boots, inner stockings, and mittens, it took no less than seven caribou to
create a full outfit for a man.26 Still more were needed for a woman’s garments, which
included a back pouch, broad shoulders and loose trousers. To simply tan the skins
22 Jenness, Copper Eskimo, 12:237.
23 Jenness, Material Culture, 16:89.
24 Ibid., 16:11.
25 Ibid.
26 Ibid.
necessary for one outfit required at least fifty-six hours of labour from a skilled tanner.
To outfit an entire family was an enormous annual undertaking even for the most
talented seamstresses. It is no surprise that sewing was an extremely valued skill.
Figure 6 An example of a Qulitaq.
“Tuptanna with bow and arrow on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories, 1916.”
By John Hadley, CMC Historical Photos 51162.
The shape and nature of the caribou skin was the ultimate dictator of how the
garment was designed.27 The seamstress had to determine which skin was most suited
for each garment that she had to make. The nature of the animal exerts itself even after
its death on the type of garment and how exactly it was sewn. The agency of the
caribou, directly impacted what was created from it. The skins chosen for the kapitaq
were those best suited for making it. Each pattern piece had to be cut in a way that all of
the fur flowed downwards to keep snow from collecting on the wearer. So the
27 Ibid.
seamstress had to understand exactly the flow of the fur on the caribou and cut the
pieces to line up exactly when they were sewed together.
Figure 7 “Ikpukhuak and his wife Higilak at Bernard Harbour, Northwest Territories (Nunavut).” By
George Wilkins. CMC Historical Photos 51232
The design of the clothing expressed the wearer’s social, cultural, and gender
identity. The cut of the parka immediately let anyone know that that person was
Inuinnait. More specifically, a man’s parka was very distinct from a woman’s in terms
of the cut. Women’s parkas had a triangular silhouette for the shoulders and their pants
were rounded. A photo of Ikpakhuak and Higilaq in their dancing finery demonstrates
the differences in men’s and women’s clothing (Fig. 7). Women’s clothing would also
demonstrate her childbearing status. A mother would wear an amauti, a parka with a
pouch in the back to carry her small child. A common fashion for men was to have the
caribou ears placed on the hood or shoulders. Jenness explained that women would also
use the fur of the head and neck of the caribou for the coat so that the ears fell on the
shoulders.28 The peaking of the hood, “with the two upstanding ears and the long tail
trailing between the legs, gave a stooping Eskimo so close a likeness to a caribou that it
sometimes deceived his dogs hauling on the sled behind him and spurred them on to
greater effort.”29
Whether or not the clothing confused the dogs, it still had important metaphorical
meaning as it alluded to the role of hunter.30 Bernadette Driscoll-Engelstad goes further
and suggests that the design elements are mimetic allusions to prey and predator, “a
clear example of syncretic imagery that so often characterizes Inuit design traditions.”31
The pukiq, or white fur of the caribou’s underbelly was of central importance to
Inuinnait clothing design. It was not only an aesthetic element for the trim and breast
panels (known as manohinik), but it also symbolized the gift of the caribou and
provided spiritual protection for the wearer.32 Highly decorated, the ceremonial clothes
used not only the pukiq and dark caribou fur for the design, but often included red dyed
skin as well. The kapitaq has an elegant band of red skin between the manohinik and
another band of pukiq. Women were always looking for the red ochre necessary to make
the red dye.33 Jenness writes that the red was made with litharge, a lead oxide.34
28 Ibid., 16:12.
29 Ibid.
30 Hall et al., Sanatujut, 28.
31 Driscoll-Engelstad, “Dance of the Loon,” 37.
32 Ibid., 38.
33 Ibid.
34 Jenness, Material Culture, 16:26. This comment about the litharge has been perpetuated since
Material Culture of the Copper Eskimo was published, but there has never been a chemical analysis on
the red skins to actually determine if it was actually that chemical. It would be worth sending a sample
into the Canadian Conservation Institute to determine the chemical composition of the red-dyed skins, to
see if it is actually litharge or simply something perpetuated because one person wrote it down once.
Figure 8 Loon Bill bonnet worn by Gaultier CMC IV-D-1107. Note the bonnet is “face down.”
Photograph by author.
Although my focus remains on the kapitaq, there are some other items worn in
ceremonies that deserve mention particularly because Gaultier who is discussed later
wore a full ceremonial outfit. For example, Gaultier wore the loon bill bonnet in figure
8 as part of her Inuit costume. The loon bill bonnets, as worn by Ikpakhuak (fig. 7) and
depicted in many of the prints by Helen Kalvak (fig. 9) are unique among the Inuinnait
and are undoubtedly the most striking part of the dancer’s regalia. The bonnets are made
of alternating strips of skin in red, white and dark brown or black. The black skin was
often sealskin, while the rest was caribou.35 The centre was made of a loonskin with its
feathers still attached. The loon bill poked through the top section of the loon skin to
stick straight up from the wearer’s head. The bill was drilled through the nostrils and
tied together with a thong. The bill was then whitened with gypsum.36 This cap was
35 Driscoll-Engelstad, “Dance of the Loon,” 38.
36 Jenness, Material Culture, 16:31.
shared with those in the community, both male and female.37 In the same way that the
caribou skin clothing was a metaphor for the animal itself, the wearing of the loon also
expressed their admiration for the animal. The loon was revered for its eyesight, its
speed, its elegant song and courtship dance. It is a perfect metaphor for the dancers who
now wore the loon in their dance (Fig. 9).38
Figure 9 Dance by Helen Kalvak, 1974. Gift of Charles Moore. University of Alberta Art Collection
Wintertime was the high point of the Inuinnait social season, dances would be
called to welcome visitors to the settlement, honour friendships, and celebrate
successful hunts.39 Finer kapitaqs such as IV-D-1116, were reserved for what Jenness
described as: “evening wear or for occasions when they wished to appear well-
dressed.”40 Driscoll-Engelstad argues that clothing was more than simple protection
37 Driscoll-Engelstad, “Dance of the Loon,” 38.
38 Hall et al., Sanatujut, 73.
39 Ibid., 69.
40 Jenness, Material Culture, 16:17.
from the elements, as ceremonial clothing was central to Inuit social, cultural and
political life.41 The most significant way of highlighting the role of the kapitaq in
performance was its place in the winter season dance halls.
Stefansson’s description of the winter season dance halls that existed in the 1910s
provides a vibrant description of how the kapitaq was used in these performances. The
snow house of Hitkoak in Minto Inlet was the largest dance hall that Stefansson had
ever seen. He described it as having:
Two bed platforms each ten or twelve feet across the front and eight
feet wide…with was room for about seventy-five people to stand
closely packed on the floor space in front… The highest point of the
central dome was probably ten or eleven feet from the floor. The house
was brilliantly lighted by several oil lamps each burning with a foot of
flame… A house as large as Hitkoak’s was never purely a residence but
it was intended in part as the assembly room or club house of the
Imagine how the performer moved in his kapitaq. The very design exaggerated
movement and motion: the fringe would splay out and swish with the movements of the
wearer. The swaying pelts appeared alive creating quite a sight for the audience.43 If the
parka belonged to a Shaman his or her status was signaled by an ermine skin placed in
the centre of the back of the parka (Fig. 9). The Shaman embodied the ermine, a “smart
and sneaky” animal by wearing it on his or her kapitaq.44 Other dancers would wear an
ermine on their right shoulder, as a token of friendship between dance partners.45
41 Driscoll-Engelstad, “Dance of the Loon,” 34.
42 Vilhjalmur Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic: The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions (New
York: New York Macmillan, 1943), 419.
43 Driscoll-Engelstad, “Dance of the Loon,” 40.
44 Ibid., 39.
45 Hall et al., Sanatujut, 71.
Diamond Jenness described a drumming performance; similar to those this
kapitaq would have been involved in:
The dancer, whether a man or a woman (for the Copper Eskimo it
made no difference in this respect), begins with a few beats of the
drum as though testing it, then holds it up in both hands and waves it
up and down, or else taps the middle of the membrane lightly on the
underside. Then he starts his song, balancing himself alternately on
either foot. The audience joins in when they recognize the words, and
as soon as the song is going with a good swing, the man begins his
dance proper, beating his drum, swaying his body and circling around
the ring to the accompaniment of the music. Often he lowers the drum
towards the end of the refrain, raps it in the middle a few times and
starts the next verse lest his audience may have forgotten the
The kapitaq was part of a significant expression of self and identity, its very existence
was meant to highlight the wearer’s place in society and to participate in critical
community and friendship building. Life in the Arctic was not easy and it was critical
that everyone contribute to the community for the survival of the group. This garment
was a signal within a social group and expressed the wearer’s being in a highly
symbolic way.
We can never know exactly what this kapitaq meant to the woman who made it.
She could have felt pride in her hard work, or absolutely hated sewing. Either way, the
meaning of the kapitaq for her was very specific for her and her community. The life of
the kapitaq was to clothe the wearer until it was worn out and no longer usable. Instead,
within a short period of its creation, it became an object for scientific inquiry. It became
a representation of a classification system through its collection by the Canadian Arctic
46 Jenness, Copper Eskimo, 12:224.
Collecting the Pieces: The Canadian Arctic Expedition and Salvage Ethnology
The Canadian Arctic Expedition (CAE) was an important and highly publicized
research expedition in the Arctic from 1913-1918. It was the largest Canadian scientific
undertaking of its day whose primary goal was to explore the Arctic while studying its
geology, botany, and zoology and anthropology.47 The CAE divided into two teams: the
Northern Party headed by Canadian-born Arctic explorer Viljhalmur Stefansson and the
Southern Party headed by zoologist Rudolph Anderson.48 As a result of the death of the
famed French anthropologist Henri Beuchat in the Karluk tragedy, Jenness was
responsible for all of the anthropological work for both parties and collected all that he
could about the Inuinnait.49 Because of their remoteness from Quablunaat (southerners,
47 Diamond Jenness and Stuart E Jenness, Arctic Odyssey: The Diary of Diamond Jenness,
Ethnologist with the Canadian Arctic Expedition in Northern Alaska and Canada, 1913-1916 (Hull,
Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1991), xxvii; Jenness, Material Culture; Jenness, Copper
Eskimo; Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic: The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions; Vilhjalmur
Stefansson and Gísli Pálsson, Writing on Ice: The Ethnographic Notebooks of Vilhjalmur Stefansson
(Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2001); Diamond Jenness, Stuart E Jenness, and
Canadian Museum of Civilization, Through Darkening Spectacles: Memoirs of Diamond Jenness
(Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2008); Robert L. A. Hancock, “Diamond Jenness’s
Arctic Ethnography and the Potential for a Canadian Anthropology,” Histories of Anthropology Annual 2
(2006): 155211; Richard J Diubaldo, Stefansson and the Canadian Arctic (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s
University Press, 1978); Gísli Pálsson and Keneva Kunz, Travelling Passions: The Hidden Life of
Vilhjalmur Stefansson (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2005); Stuart E Jenness, Stefansson, Dr.
Anderson and the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913-1918: A Story of Exploration, Science and
Sovereignty, Mercury Series History Paper no 56 (Gatineau, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization,
2011); David A Morrison, Arctic Hunters: the Inuit and Diamond Jenness (Hull, Quebec: Canadian
Museum of Civilization, 1992); Pamela R Stern and Lisa Stevenson, Critical Inuit studies: An Anthology
of Contemporary Arctic Ethnography (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006); Regna Darnell,
“North American Traditions in Anthropology: The Historiographic Baseline,” in A New History of
Anthropology, ed. Henrika Kuklick (Oxford, UK; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Pub., 2008).
48 The Northern Party’s focus from most to least importance was 1. Geographical 2.
Oceanographical and marine biology 3. Geological 4. Megnetical 5. Anthropological 6. Bioogical
(terrestrial). In the Southern Party the priorities were: 1. Geological 2. Geographical 3. Anthropological 4.
Biological 4. Photographical.
49 The Karluk was trapped in sea ice for 13 months drifting towards Siberia before sinking. It
resulted in the deaths of 11 people of the 10 scientists, 13 crewmembers, 4 Inuit hunters, a seamstress, her
two children and one passenger who were on the ship. It was the single greatest Arctic Maritime disaster
in Canadian history since the Franklin Expedition. Stefansson’s departure from the ship with the best
non-Inuit), it was wrongly believed that Inuinnait material culture was unaffected by
trade and contact with Europeans making them ideal subjects for a salvage ethnology
mission.50 The irony is that the very presence of these anthropologists and their
particular focus on the Inuinnait meant dramatic changes occurred because of the
amount of trade and contact between the two.
The anthropological goals of the expedition were based on the paradigm of
salvage ethnology. This paradigm assumed that indigenous cultures would inevitably
decay once they came into contact with white culture and society. Those indigenous
cultures, it was believed, in their primitive and prehistoric condition would eventually
fall into disuse after encountering Western technology, religion and culture.51 The sense
of urgency was extreme, since it was the task of salvage ethnologists to record all
aspects of the culture before it disappeared forever.
These ideas shaped Diamond Jenness’ collecting activities while in the Arctic.
Jenness is central to the kapitaq’s story as his reports on Inuinnait material culture and
their music offer the most detailed information for the parka both in its construction and
in the music that Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye sang. Jenness’ role was to collect
virtually all that he could about the Inuinnait. He, like others, believed that Inuinnait’s
remoteness from Quablunaat meant that their material culture was still “pure(as in
Inuit hunters and a handful of the scientists was the subject of a great controversy in Canada at the time, a
controversy still studied today. The ship’s Captain, Bob Bartlett eventually made a 150 km trek to get
help. The story is still an important moment in Canadian history and many books, both fact and fiction
tell its story. Bartlett himself is the author of the best-selling The Last Voyage of the Karluk: A Survivor’s
Memoir. William Laird McKinley’s book The Untold Story of the Karluk is another popular book on the
topic. The children’s historical fiction, Eric Walter’s Trapped in Ice is based on the disaster as well.
50 Hall et al., Sanatujut, 14.
51 Andrew Nurse, “‘But Now Things Have Changed’: Marius Barbeau and the Politics of
Amerindian Identity,” Ethnohistory 48, no. 3 (Summer 2002): 444.
unaffected by Euro-American culture). This was not the case, as trade routes went into
Inuinnait territory, as evidenced by iron ulu and other metal tools present by the 1900s,
as well as written accounts of contact starting over a century before.52 Regardless, the
Inuinnait were seen as a perfect example of an untouched people, and thus the ideal
hosts for a salvage ethnology mission.
The kapitaq was collected to save the remnants of a culture that was currently
“untouched” but would inevitably die out. Today, cultural persistence is a more
accepted understanding of colonization and Aboriginal people.53 Cultures are dynamic
and change over time. They change for many reasons including from contact with other
cultures: the Inuinnait were not freeze-framed into a prehistoric past, as was once
believed in the salvage paradigm, but rather changed over time before Quablunaat
arrived in the North, and continued to change thereafter.
The collection records are unclear as to who specifically purchased the kapitaq.
According to the CMC’s Sapir Ledger files, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was the collector,
which was probably shorthand for all members of the Northern Party.54 The field books,
diaries and memoirs contain very little information about the trading and collecting of
ethnographic material by the Northern Party. Ethnology was not the Party’s primary
focus but John Hadley, the Second Officer of the Polar Bear, was responsible for
organizing the anthropological objects brought in by Stefansson and Captain Henry
52 Hall et al., Sanatujut, 14.
53 Persistence and change as an anthropological theory is base in postcolonial works such as
Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, and Gayatri Spivak. In terms of Canadian Aboriginal peoples James
Clifford, Julie Cruikshank, Allan Greer and Ruth Phillips have been particularly influential in this project.
54 With personal communication with Judy Hall and my own research and knowledge about
Stefansson and the CAE, he was often away exploring and those in the expedition that stayed at Polar
Bear Camp were more likely to be the ones trading and collecting for the most part, such as John Hadley.
Gonzales.55 So it seems that it was either Gonzales or Stefansson who collected it and
Hadley who processed it. Furthermore, Stefansson appears to have kept the kapitaq and
numerous other specimens with him until 1921 before giving them to the Canadian
Geological Survey.56 Given the lack of information on the Northern Party’s collecting
practices, it is necessary to rely on Jenness for information on the garments, his trading
activities, and the people with whom he lived (Fig. 10). Fortunately he was far more
meticulous about recording where he obtained his artifacts quite often down to the
individual sub-group with whom he traded.57
Figure 10 “Diamond Jenness packing specimens on Herschel Island, Yukon Territory”
Photograph taken by George H. Wilkins, August 7, 1924. CMC 51436
Jenness recorded many of the trades that he made with different people, although
he did not record all of their names. Nor did he note which objects were collected for
the expedition and which items were for his own team’s survival and use. However, he
55 David Gray, “Canadian Arctic Expedition: People” Canadian Museum of Civilization, Northern
People, Northern Knowledge: The Story of the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1918, October 22, 2009,
56 The Sapir Ledger at the Canadian Museum of Civilization
57 Personal communication with Judy Hall, November 2012.
often listed what he traded for and what he paid for them. This information is useful in
terms of determining the worth that Jenness saw in the garments and the value that the
Inuit placed on the items traded. In his notes, Jenness listed his trades for parkas as atigi
so it is unclear if this is an inner or outer parka, or both. The trades Jenness made for
atigis include a wolf trap, 20 .44 cartridges, an eight-inch knife and a can of
gunpowder.58 In all likelihood a similar trade was made between one of the Northern
Party members and someone for the kapitaq. Today, an amauti (woman’s parka) costs
hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. It seems shocking how something of seemingly
little value such as twenty bullets is traded for an atigi. This information may be
interpreted in two different ways. It might be seen as proof of how white people
dominated the Inuit, taking advantage of their ignorance for their own benefit. But such
a view denies the agency of the Inuit who travelled specifically to trade with the CAE
and also places the situation in a very simple binary of power/powerless.
It makes more sense to consider how items like bullets and knives were of
extreme utility for the Inuit and hard to come by, particularly in this region of the Arctic
where the HBC had yet to make inroads. What is going on here, without denying the
colonialist imperative of the CAE, is a trade between people who are discarding what
they see as commonplace for items of high value or rarity from the other society.
George R. Hamell highlights this in his work on trade beads in Algonquin and Iroquois
territory. Hamell explains that what happens was less about one culture taking
58 Jenness and Jenness, Arctic Odyssey, appendix 3.
advantage of the other and more a discrepancy of two different “thoughtworlds.”59
Hamell’s overarching theory suggests that trade between Europeans and Aboriginals
demonstrate a fundamental difference not only in systems of economic value, but in the
way each understood their world. The kapitaq was something necessary for the CAE
explorers to add to their collection, and a knife, bullets, or a fox trap were practical
goods for a hunter. Bruce White also argues a similar point, in a Great Lakes context,
explaining that traders were required to work on the Ojibwe’s terms to trade. They were
outsiders and were required to work within the already extant trade networks and
systems of meaning in order to successfully navigate a trade.60
Inuinnait could only obtain European-produced goods through trade with other
Inuit or expeditions such as the CAE, but it did not mean that they had no exposure to
European trade goods at this time.61 The Hudson’s Bay Company had a post in on the
Mackenzie River in the 1850s meaning trade between the Inuinnait and the Inuvialuit
(Mackenzie Delta Inuit) diminished as the Inuvialuit focused their interests on the HBC
post. The Inuinnait began trading with those to the east so little trade occurred directly
with whalers, traders or explorers until the twentieth century.62
59 George Hamell, “Trading in Metaphors: The Magic of Beads: Another Perspective Upon
Indian-European Contact in Northeastern North America,” in Proceedings of the 1982 Glass Trade Beads
Conference (Rochester: Rochester Museum & Science Center, 1983), 5.
60 Bruce M. White, “‘Give Us a Little Milk’: The Social and Cultural Meanings of Gift Giving in
the Lake Superior Fur Trade,” Minnesota Histor 48, no. 2 (Summer 1982): 60.
61 Oakes, Inuit Skin Clothing, 24.
62 The Stefansson-Anderson expedition of 1909-1912, the CAE 1914-1918, the Klengenberg store
set up on Victoria Island in 1916, the HBC post at Cambridge Bay in 1921, the arrival of the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police in 1926, the Fifth Thule expedition 1921-1924 led by Knud Rasmussen
Figure 11 This longer men’s parka was made by Kenmek Klengenberg and collected by Diamond Jenness
in Coppermine River in 1916. Donated by Stuart E. Jenness, 1987. CMC IV-E-1229.
The permanent installation of trade posts as well as numerous expeditions into the
area between 1909-1924 signaled permanent contact between the Inuinnait and
Quablunaat and a total change in the style of parkas made by the Inuinnait. These
changes do not mean that the culture died out but clothing fashion did alter
dramatically. Hall and Oakes argue that the arrival of Christian (Charliyuk)
Klengenberg and his Inupiat (Alsakan Eskimo) wife, Kenmek in 1916 and their trading
post near Coronation Gulf signaled the beginning of a fashion revolution. Christian and
Kenmek’s daughter, Etna Klengenberg-Bolt found the “local style…too cold” and
taught many of the Inuinnait women how to sew the longer Inupiat-style parkas.63 The
Inuinnait-style kapitaq had very short sleeves and did not overlap with mittens so minor
63 Hall et al., Sanatujut, 99.
frostbite was a common complaint.64 Even Jenness noted that fashion was changing by
the 1920s, as western fashion influences including cotton and wool garments as well as
bead-work overlay made inroads into Inuinnait territory.65
Discovering the maker is impossible for the parka with the documentation
available from the CAE. I searched through hundreds of photographs attempting to find
one of someone wearing the kapitaq to no success. The method of collecting by the
ethnologists during the Canadian Arctic Expedition (CAE) makes it impossible to truly
trace the producer of this parka let alone exactly when or where it was collected. In a
1918 letter, quoted in the collectors file for the loon-bill dancing bonnet (IV-D-1107)
worn by Juliette Gaultier, Second Officer Hadley, wrote to Vihljalmur Stefansson
Most of the Biological specimens were traded for at Armstrong Point,
and as the Captain [Henry Gonzales] was in charge of the trading and
the clothes were mostly traded for when I was not present, the Captain
neglected to get the necessary information to enable me to label them.
In fact most everything was handled that way and almost as fast as a
suit was traded for the most of it would be used and cut up. When the
first natives came to us at Armstrong Point, I would try to keep track of
names of the original owners and label them, but I finally concluded
that it was useless as the next day they would be cut up and made over,
and during out winter in Walker Bay a great number of native clothes, I
saw some that have V.S. [Vihljalmur Stefansson] on them, were cut up
to put in shirts, especially in the case of the women. If they wanted a
nice short haired pieces of skin they would get a specimen shirt handed
out to them to finish their shirt with. So I concluded that I could do
nothing, so it was of no use trying to keep track of them.66
64 Oakes, Inuit Skin Clothing, 16.
65 Jenness, Material Culture, 16:I.
66 John Hadley to Vihljalmur Stefansson, 1918, Collector File for IV-D-1107, CMC.
The idea that people cut apart “artifacts” to stuff in their clothes is horrifying to a
museum professional today, and Hadley’s letter shows his exasperation at the
situation.67 That people cut up specimens to use is disturbing from our perspective,
because we expect museological items to remain static and preserved. That is their
purpose. That these specimens were cut up and stuffed into clothing disrupts our
expected narrative of what should happen to museum specimens. The kapitaq was one
of the garments that managed to survive the expeditioners’ scissors and make its way
from the north, packed in a crate bound for the Canadian Geological Survey.
Although there are no images of my kapitaq from the time it was collected, I was
still able to compare it to many other parkas to glean some more information about
variations in style and regional variances. Oakes, who wrote an intensive study of
Copper and Caribou Inuit clothing construction remarked that women could easily
identify the woman who made any parka because of the individual stylistic preferences
present in the garment. Most significantly, even today, seamstresses do not view each
other’s works as regionally specific designs, but rather as individual choice, this concept
easily translates back to this period.68 The memory of the work of individual
seamstresses goes very far back, but to truly determine which subgroup the kapitaq
came from would require an extensive comparative project examining and comparing
the entire Inuinnait garment collection at the CMC as well as their photograph
67 Hadley was the only member who survived the Karluk disaster and continued to participate in
the Arctic Expedition.67 He was part of the Northern Party and Stefansson and Captain Henry Gonzales
gave him the responsibility of caring for the artifacts, but he was not an anthropologist.
68 Oakes, Inuit Skin Clothing, 64. In a previous work, I studied a birchbark book (CMC III-G-444)
made in 1927. I managed to trace it back to the maker by contacting the Band office of Parry Sound.
These communities are very small and the memories of other women’s handiwork go quite far back.
collection to narrow down their origins. This is unfortunately beyond the scope of this
The parka that I found to be most similar to the CMC kapitaq is that of Nutainna
who visited the Polar Bear Camp at Armstrong Point in May 1916 (Figs. 14&15).
Comparing the two kapitaqs highlights some of the variations even among very similar
designs (Figs. 12&13). These photographs were taken by John Hadley and show
Nutainna’s parka front and back. As Hadley stated in his letter, the majority of trading
that went on for the Northern Party was at Armstrong Point, but that does not mean that
that parka came from a group that actually lived near that area.
The similarities between Nutainna’s kapitaq and the one in this paper are striking.
The white chest panels are high onto the shoulders and they have a small band across
the torso at the base of the wearer’s ribcage. On this band are tassels bunched into
clusters of two. The swallowtails of the kapitaqs follow similar lines and have the same
white trim along the edge and in the middle of the tail. They both have a dark band
between the shoulders; because of the nature of caribou fur this suggests that they both
have the same part of the caribou fur used for this cut of the kapitaq. The trim of tassels
on the upper arms is quite similar in both. The similarities end there, however.
Nutainna’s swallowtail is sewn in a straight line at the waist, whereas the CMC kapitaq
has a slightly tapered cut. Along the dark vertical band between the shoulders, Nutainna
has only one stripe of white, whereas the CMC kapitaq has three. On the front,
Nutainna’s kapitaq is slightly plainer as the manohinik (chest panels) have no extra trim
while the CMC kapitaq has concentric bands of white and red skin framing the white
breast panels.
In Stefansson’s The Friendly Arctic, he described the meeting of two young men
Nutaittok and Taptuna from just north of Minto Inlet. The people were known as the
Kanghirjuatyagmiut and were visitors to Polar Bear Camp the same year that Hadley
took the photographs of Nutainna (Fig. 6).69 Stefansson wanted to have several families
to live on ship at Polar Bear Camp, to have an extended amount of time to study their
“religion and customs.But the Inuit doubted that the CAE men would be able to
provide them with enough caribou meat so Stefansson only convinced Taptuna and
Nutaittok to stay with the expedition for a few days. 70 He explained that he traded with
them and others in the village near Minto Inlet for ethnological material. Perhaps this is
when the kapitaq was purchased.
69 Fig. 3 is a photograph of Tuptuna.
70 Stefansson, The Friendly Arctic: The Story of Five Years in Polar Regions, 424.
Figure 12 IV-D-1116 Front view. Photographed by author.
Figure 13 IV-D-1116 Back view. Photographed by author.
Figure 14 “Nutainna, a Copper Inuk man, on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories.”
By John Hadley CMC Historical Photographs 51160
Figure 15 “Nutainna, a Copper Inuk man, on Victoria Island, Northwest Territories,”
By John Hadley CMC Historical Photographs 51161
The kapitaq was accessioned to the National Museum’s collection in 1921, three
years after Stefansson returned south. 71 It is unclear where the specimens were kept
during this time. Jenness’ specimens from the CAE were brought in right after he
returned. He was part of the Southern Party that returned south earlier, but there seems
to be no information as to why Stefansson’s collection took so long. There was a great
deal of controversy about how Stefansson ran the Expedition and he was not on good
terms with the Canadian Geological Survey at this point. He also was busy writing his
memoir, The Friendly Arctic, and embarked on a lecture tour upon his return south.
Stefansson was also lobbying the Canadian government trying to start a scheme to raise
reindeer on Baffin Island that failed dismally.72 His wildly busy years following the
expedition, dealing with controversies with Anderson on top of his projects, probably
meant his focus was not on bringing the objects to the Canadian Geological Survey.
Frankly, considering Stefansson’s poor relationship with the GSC there is little surprise
that he might have dragged his feet in the process.
In 1921, in fine ink, the name National Museum of Canada was printed on the
inside of the kapitaq’s hood (Fig. 16). This name marked it as an artifact possessed by
the Museum. It was no longer the maker’s parka, nor was it Stefansson’s. It would not
stay in the Museum’s possessions for long, however, as merely six years later, Juliette
Gaultier de la Verendrye, folksinger and performer would obtain the kapitaq for her folk
performances. She shifted the meaning of the kapitaq yet again. It was an object of
71 The Sapir Ledger at the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
72 Diubaldo, Stefansson and the Canadian Arctic, 195.
scientific inquiry for only ten years, now it would become a star in a show under New
York City’s bright lights.
Figure 16 The ink marking on the inside of the hood of IV-D-1116. Photograph by author.
That’s Show Biz, Kid: Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye
How does an object of science become a costume for a folk singer? How Gaultier
obtained the kapitaq and how she used it in her performances were only possible in this
moment when the fields of anthropology and folklore were professionalizing. 73 Her folk
song performances while in “authentic” Indian and Eskimo costume were an example of
the expression of an idea of Canada through a Romantic discourse that by extension was
primitivist and anti-modern. Gaultier’s work was part of this desire to make the Other
knowable. She resisted the hybridizing movement of Indian Opera, where Aboriginal
melodies were put into Western harmonization, by attempting to perform the music as
close to the original form as possible. Wearing the kapitaq gave her the legitimacy of
the museum as a knowledge-broker while also maintaining her role as an artist. Her use
73 Darnell, “North American Traditions in Anthropology: The Historiographic Baseline,” 50.
of the parka allowed her to mimic the songs and aesthetics of the Inuinnait and
emphasized their “Other-ness” In effect, her performances made the Inuit knowable
through their clothing and music and therefore possessible (colonizable).74
Ottawa-born Juliette Gauthier de la Verendrye began a career in Canadian folk
singing in 1926 after a failed attempt at a career in opera. This was the beginning for
Gaultier’s contact with the kapitaq. The peak of her success was in 1927-8, when she
performed for a variety of venues, from the Quebec Folk Song and Handicraft Festival,
to Town Hall in New York. She was an extremely well connected person: family friends
with Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s family, a close correspondent with Prime
Minister Sir William Lyon MacKenzie King; and Lord and Lady Strathcona were her
patrons early in her career. Her connections were not limited to Canada either; she was a
close friend of Vihljalmur Stefansson and American artist Langdon Kihn, and even met
Charlie Chaplin.
Her career was eclectic to say the least. Born in 1888, she and her sister Eva were
both trained opera singers. Gaultier studied in Italy under Vinceso Lombardi, an opera
teacher whose most famous pupil was Enrico Caruso.75 Eva advised Juliette to find a
new niche for her work after an unsuccessful debut at the Boston Opera as an
understudy.76 Gaultier began her career in 1926 as a Canadian folk singer. She enjoyed
moderate success until World War II. This was the period in which Gaultier wore the
74 Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, Pbk. ed. (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1992).
75 Laura Macy, The New Grove Book of Opera Singers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008),
78, http://www.oxfordreference.com/views/BOOK_SEARCH.html?book=t262.
76 Anita Slominska, “Interpreting Success and Failure: The Eclectic Careers of Eva and Juliette
Gauthier” (Master of Arts, McGill University, 2009), 5.
kapitaq for her performances of Inuit songs. When opportunities for recitals dried up,
she opened the Gatineau Park Museum where, as the curator, she dressed in costume
and showed visitors handicrafts. By 1953, the Federal Development Commission (the
precursor to today’s National Capital Commission) cancelled her position. Little is
known about the last twenty years of her life, but in 1965 she lived in a boarding house
in Ottawa and one Ottawa Public Library staff member describe her as “confused.”77
Gaultier passed away in 1972 and her documents were donated to the Canadian
Museum of Civilization.
Figure 17 B563 F4 Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye in 1927
Gaultier never tried to impersonate the people whose garments she wore and
whose songs she performed. She saw her performances as a (quasi) anthropological
77 Ibid., 3538.
exercise that allowed her audience a chance to see what the Inuit wore and how their
songs sounded. This was the 1920s version of edutainment. In fact, when a newspaper
article declared that she was impersonating a “real Eskimo,” her reaction was of shock,
and ironic humour at the absurdity of the situation.78
If she was not trying to impersonate a “real” Inuit woman, then how can we
understand Gaultier’s performances?79 Gaultier did not have an alter-ego or character
when in costume (Fig. 17). She presented herself as Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye, an
expert in Canadian folk music. It is worth noting that the “de la Verendrye” portion of
her name was an affectation that linked her to the French explorer Pierre Gaultier de la
Verendrye. This name connected her to a specific history of “exploration” and to the
Romantic ideas of meeting foreign peoples unaffected by the tarnishing nature of Euro-
American civilization.
Gaultier’s performances best fit into Homi Bhabha’s ideas about mimicry.
Mimicry is centered on a discourse of ambivalence, and represents the Other as “a
subject of difference that is almost the same, but not quite.”80 Even on a superficial
level, her attempts at authenticity fail. Her backdrop of Totem poles by Kihn, her use of
78 Gaultier to Jenness, 4 October 1926, CMC B645 F1. The details of this letter are discussed later
in this paper.
79 Ethnic Drag by Katrin Sieg offered an interpretation of Indian hobbyists in a German context.
According to Sieg, “ethnic drag is the performance of race as a masquerade.” Gaultier’s performances
initially appear parallel to the German hobbyists who from the 1870s on to the present day, take a serious
view on authenticity of costuming. These German hobbyists believe that their commitment to the
substance and accuracy of their costuming is tantamount to respecting the Aboriginal cultures that they
reproduce. Their costumes embody a popular understanding of Indians. They make or purchase their
costumes and cautious to represent an historical idea of the Indian.
80 Homi K Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 2004), 86. Homi Bhabha
describes an unresolvable pull in colonial discourse between “the synchronic panoptical vision of
domination the demand for identity, statis and the counterpressure of the diachrony of history change,
difference mimicry represents an ironic compromise.”
museum artifacts as costuming and her singing in front of a seated audience of generally
wealthy and educated White Americans and Canadians would never replicate sitting in
an ice house in the middle of January. While she might achieve accuracy in the tone of
her songs and in her costumes, she could never achieve authenticity. Instead, what she
managed was a copy of the original context, a copy of the Other. Such a representation
of the Other, argues Bhabha, appropriates and normalizes the colonial subject while
simultaneously distancing them from “Us.”81
Gaultier conflated her authority with authenticity. It was by borrowing museum
artifacts that she felt she finally achieved authenticity as they lent authority and
legitimacy (in her eyes and to her audience) to her performances. Gaultier attempted to
make a career out of her performances and she strove to embody an authentic image of
the Inuit or Nuu-Chal-Nulth. The costuming was not an attempt to perform an identity
of Indigeneity, but to perform an identity of an expert folklorist and artist. The audience
felt that Gaultier was presenting the authentic, through her use of museum of artifacts
which were signs of her legitimacy as an expert.82
In order to gain that legitimacy, she had to have contacts within the museum to
succeed in obtaining the transcripts for songs and other information. The borrowing of
artifacts came later. Gaultier knew Barbeau from at least 1922 as she travelled to New
81 Ibid.
82 When I discuss the garments that Gaultier wore, there is a deliberate choice in the use of the
term “costume.” First of all this is the word that Gaultier used. It is also problematic to use the term
regalia, as it belittles the traditions and spirituality that may be wrapped up in the garments for the
original Aboriginal users in its original context. It also ensures a jarring juxtaposition of costume with the
conceptualizations of authenticity of the period.
York with him and his family that year.83 The origin of their relationship is unclear, but
Ottawa was a small town in terms of its elite and it is not unexpected that they had some
connections. She wrote to Barbeau to secure folk songs to perform at her recitals. From
there, Gaultier expanded her correspondents to include Jenness, whom she called her
“good friend.”84 She worked most closely with Barbeau until 1928 when they disagreed
about how she should perform her folk songs for the Quebec Folk Song and Handicraft
Festival. The support that Gaultier received from Barbeau, Jenness, and Sapir ensured
that she would have content for her recitals at all. In the early stages, she was not in
contact with Indigenous informants, so she was dependent on music that had been
collected by others.
Gaultier continued to correspond with Jenness in particular regarding her “Eskimo
Songs.” Jenness was pleased with her work and success in New York in 1927-1928.85
He was responsible for providing Gaultier with all of the Inuit songs that she performed
and aided her hunt for more contacts for her work. He even wrote a letter to Knud
Rasmussen to ensure that she met him in New York.86 The music, the moving pictures,
the lantern slides, and the costuming that she used, were all obtained through support
from the National Museum of Canada and the Museum of Natural History in New York
83 Gaultier to Barbeau, 19 December 1925, CMC B615 F5.
84 Gaultier to Barbeau, 19 December 1925, CMC B615 F5.
85 Jenness to Gaultier, 5 May 1926, CMC B645 F1.
86 Jenness to Gaultier, 20 November 1926, CMC B645 F1. Knud Rasmussen was among the most
important arctic explorer-scientists of this period. He led five expedition from Greenland to Alaska
known as the Thule Expeditions.
to a smaller extent. Jenness provided Gaultier with the kapitaq and all of the other
“costumes’ that she performed in.87
Starting in 1926, Gaultier began her search to ensure her performances were as
authentic (in her mind) as possible. In a letter to Barbeau, Gaultier explained that she
was in the process of researching her “Eskimo Act.” Gaultier was especially thrilled to
meet Stefansson because she saw him as a valuable source of information about the
Inuit. She and Stefansson paired together on numerous occasions where he would
lecture about his exploits and she would then perform Inuit songs in costume. Initially,
Gaultier attempted to make her costumes with the help of a designer. They went to the
Museum of Natural History to look at some clothing, drums, sleds and even igloos. She
explained that: “I think we shall have more or less the effect we want.”88
Her happiness with the situation of her costuming quickly soured and she vented
her frustration to Barbeau about a year later. She was to perform at the Natural History
Museum in front of “Old Boas” and several other eminent ethnologists.89 Her
frustrations began, with trying to obtain a Nuu-Chal-Nulth outfit.
As I told you, I have to improvise a Nootka [Nuu-Chal-Nulth] costume. I
have…found some cloth to imitate cedar bark with some imagin[ation]. I
hope it will look realistic!… If it is at all possible to get anything in line
of clothes or ornamentation…I should be most grateful. It is so bad to
sing Canadian Government songs and poorly dressed. I can’t get
anything here…90
87 Gaultier to Jenness, 1927 May, CMC B645 F1.
88 Gaultier to Barbeau, June 6, 1926, CMC B615 F5.
89 Franz Boas was an eminent anthropologist in the United States and is considered the Father of
American Anthropology. He trained Edward Sapir, who was the director of Anthropology at the National
Museum before Jenness. Boas’ most significant contribution was the idea that it was culture and
environment that caused greater differences between people than race.
90 Gaultier to Barbeau, March 15, 1927, CMC B615 F5.
Gaultier resorted to borrowing items from the American Museum of Natural History in
New York through linguist and anthropologist Pliny Goddard, but was required to
return the clothing after the performances, and was unable to take the garments with her
to Canada.91 She tried to make a “Nootka cape” from raffia; she scrounged around for
articles from Harold D. Smith of the Victor Talking Machine Company, hoping to
purchase some of his collection; she also had Douglas Leechman, an anthropologist at
the National Museum make her an “Eskimo drum.” 92 It is clear throughout her letters in
1927 that Gaultier was determined to do anything to get costuming that was as authentic
as possible.
Gaultier viewed authentic costuming as a highlight of her performances and
critical for her role as a performer. She believed that the Canadian Government should
help her with costuming because she saw herself as a representative of Canada and its
folk songs abroad. John Murray Gibbon, the General Tourist Agent for the Canadian
Pacific Railway, supported her by organizing a number of recitals in New York.93
Unfortunately for Gaultier, the Government did not agree that they were responsible for
assisting with her staging, nor did Barbeau. Gaultier pleaded that:
My Eskimo costume really looks shabby. It is difficult to solve this
question. I can’t wear fur, I must humour the Canadian government and
Depart[ment] of Mines, Folklore dept[ment] so they ought to see that I am
properly clad!94
91 A. L. Kroeber, “Pliny Earle Goddard,” American Anthropologist 31, no. 1 (Winter 1929): 18.
92 Gaultier to Barbeau, 19 February 1927, CMC B615 F5; Gaultier to Barbeau, 14 May 1927,
CMC B615 F14; Gaultier to Barbeau, 19 February 1927, CMC B615 F5.
93 Lynda Jessup, “Marius Barbeau and Early Ethnographic Cinema,” in Around and About Marius
Barbeau: Modelling Twentieth-Century Culture, ed. Andrew Nurse, Gordon Smith, and Lynda Jessup
(Gatineau, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2008), 270.
94 Gaultier to Barbeau, 19 February 1927, CMC B615 F5.
In a sympathetic letter, Barbeau explained that there was nothing at the National
Museum of Canada that would be suitable for her needs. He went on to highlight the
regulations that most museum-goers today are quite familiar with:
vous savez qu’il y a une règle observée dans à peu près tous les musées,
de ne pas prêter de spécimens en dehors, et je regrette que cette règle a
été [sic] observée ici depuis plusieurs années.95
He encouraged her to contact Jenness to see if he could aid her in the search for
authentic costuming. This correspondence eventually led Gaultier to secure the kapitaq
for her performances. Barbeau, not expecting her to be successful suggested that:
Tout ce qu’il y aura à faire, si vraiment nous avons quelque chose qui
pourrait vous être utile, ça serait de les voler pour vous, et je ne [sic] serai
prêt à le faire que si vous consentez à venir en prison avec moi!! 96
Undeterred, Gaultier continued her crusade four months later and wrote to Jenness:
The Eskimo songs were the thing on the programme and can assure you
more beautiful songs do not exist. I am very poorly clad for Eskimo and if
it is possible for the museum to lend me something more authentic I would
at last be content. Have you a white reindeer tunic summer frock? I know
you hate my costume.97
Gaultier used a number of tactics to get what she wanted. She overplayed her
role as a representative of Canada abroad, portraying herself as a sort of
ambassador for the National Museum and the Canadian Pacific Railway. This
was not entirely accurate, though she clearly had some support from both
95 Barbeau to Gaultier, 24 March 1927, CMC B615 F5. English Translation by author: You know
that there is a rule in almost all museums that forbid the loaning of specimens and I am afraid, we have
observed that rule here for many years now.
96 Barbeau to Gaultier, 24 March 1927, CMC B615 F5. English Translation by author: All that is
necessary, if we have things here that would be useful to you, is to steal them for you. I am ready to do
that if you consent to join me in prison!
97 Gaultier to Jenness, 1 June 1927, CMC B645 F1.
institutions.98 Finally, she appealed to Jenness, whose hatred for the
inauthenticity and inaccuracy of her Inuit costume she was attuned to. Two
weeks later, Juliette wrote to Stefansson declaring that she had “a real Eskimo
costume to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.”99
Somehow, despite the regulations that prohibited lending artifacts to non-
institutions or using them the way Gaultier planned, Gaultier obtained the “real Eskimo
costume” she coveted so much. The loan form is lost, but there are loans in 1928 for
some cedar bark mats that she used for the Nuu-Chal-Nulth portion of her programme.
It was only in 1935 that there seems to be any extant paperwork that traces the loan to
Gaultier. It was only through her letters that it is apparent that she received the kapitaq,
a loon bill dancing bonnet, mittens, stockings, and caribou trousers in 1927. Most of the
items were returned in 1958, but there are still a pair of Inuinnait mittens and stockings
missing from the museum.100
It was determined that Gaultier should have authentic costumes for her
performance at the Folksong Festival and by May 1927, Gaultier had “some very
beautiful new costumes [that] the museum” provided her with.101 Strangely, when
Juliette did succeed in getting her way with the Nootka clothing, at least for the 1927
Quebec City Folksong and Handicrafts Festival, she requests that Barbeau “disinfect
98 Jessup, “Marius Barbeau and Early Ethnographic Cinema,” 278.
99 Gaultier to Stefansson, 13 June 1927, CMC B615 F14.
100 1935 loan form signed by Gaultier and Jenness. All items were cross-referenced in the database
and in the Sapir ledgers and though these items all came in 1921 from Stefansson in the CAE, we were
unable to locate the entire outfit. There is no record of the mittens or stockings ever being returned.
According to the lunchroom gossip, when Gaultier’s effects were delivered to the National Museum of
Man in the 1970s, several artifacts with the National Museum of Canada labels were found.
101 Gaultier to Stefansson, 1 July 1927 CMC B615 F14.
them in someway.”102 It seems that the Natural History Museum did that for her in 1926.
In any event, the loan forms were signed. Though the specific loan forms are no longer
around, they were loaned to her until the Museum required their return for their own
use.103 She was in possession of the kapitaq for thirty-one years.104
During those thirty years, the kapitaq travelled to New York, Chicago, Paris, and
Ottawa with Gaultier and no special storage was used for transporting them besides
packing them in her trunks and taking the train.105 The care she took of the pieces seems
minimal; she was sitting under hot lights and in warm auditoriums sweating in the
kapitaq and it was kept in a trunk whilst travelling. The kapitaq expressed its disunity
with new, warm context by its unbearable warmth for the wearer. Juliette mentioned the
heat in 1926, presumably when she was wearing her designed costume or borrowing
102 Gaultier to Barbeau, 4 May 1927, CMC B615 F5.
103 The relationships between the Barbeau, Jenness and Stefansson in this period are worth
(foot)noting. Gaultier seemed initially unaware of the bitterness amongst them. They all kept their dislike
of each other quite quiet around her. Around the time Gaultier received the kapitaq was about the same
time that Gaultier found out that Jenness was a bitter enemy of Barbeau. Barbeau and Jenness studied
together at Oxford and Barbeau recommended Jenness for the CAE. Jenness’ promotion over Barbeau as
head of the Anthropology Division of the Geological Survey in 1925 enraged Barbeau and ended any
possible intellectual exchange between the two. Perhaps, Jenness loaned Gaultier the kapitaq and other
artifacts knowing that Barbeau would not be overly thrilled about the situation. Controversy surrounding
the CAE, was certainly enough to cause tensions between the southern and northern party, but
Stefansson’s theory of “blond Eskimo” and the veracity of The Friendly Arctic was called into serious
question by Jenness in 1922. Jenness attacked Stefansson’s proficiency as an anthropologist in an article
that he wrote for Science, as well as cast doubt on Stefansson’s claims to his ability to live on the country.
Stefansson was no longer welcome in Ottawa’s circles by 1924 because of his failures as a northern
propagandist and government advisor so he was living in the United States by the time Gaultier met him.
He was still a popular figure in the United States and continued his lecture tours with Gaultier. Gaultier
herself seemed completely unaware of any tensions between the two men and in fact it appears that
Gaultier and Stefansson often spoke of Jenness and corresponded amongst each other.
104 Jenness to Gaultier, 12 November 1928, CMC B645 F1. The CMC loan form between
Diamond Jenness and Juliette Gaultier 1936-1958, but another page made in 1935 lists the same items as
outstanding loans, it seems Gaultier kept the items from 1927 to 1958.
105 Jenness to Gaultier, 12 Nov 1928, CMC B645 F1.
from the American Museum of Natural History.106 A caribou fur garment is not an
enjoyable garment to wear in the hot, humid summers of New York City.
Figure 18 A detail on the tail of IV-D-1116 where Gaultier presumably stitched up a rip.
Photograph by the author.
The damage suffered by the kapitaq because of Gaultier’s performances is visible
all over the kapitaq, and especially on its tail (Fig. 18). The neat, even, invisible stitches
on the swallowtail are put into high relief compared to the rough, urgent black thread
stitching used to sew up a tail. The fabric thread, probably cotton, was not on the
kapitaq when it was first collected. Its use on several parts of the kapitaq as well as on
the dancing bonnet that Gaultier borrowed suggests that this was done during her
stewardship of the garments (Fig. 19). The fur was not simply worn off the tail either.
The mottled fur over the entire kapitaq was caused by moths eating away at it. Gaultier
travelled with trunks around the continent, and that was probably how it was stored
106 Gaultier to Barbeau 6 June 1926, CMC B615 F5.
when she used the garments less and less in the 1940s and 1950s when she still had
possession of them.
Figure 19 A detail of the dancing bonnet where Gaultier stitched up the neck straps.
Photograph by the author.
The particular ways in which the fur was lost off of the tail also highlights how
Gaultier used it. The fur came off from rubbing against something else. This is evidence
that she was often sitting when she performed. The kapitaq in the north would not have
had the owner seated on a chair like Gaultier. The wearer would have stood on the
ground or sat on one of the bed platforms. The fringe at the very tip of the swallowtail
was also torn off, potentially from stepping on it when getting up or walking while
wearing the kapitaq. The tail of the kapitaq brushed the ground when Gaultier wore it so
an accident like that is unsurprising (Fig. 1). In a publicity photo of Gaultier, the charms
that were tied to the centre of the kapitaq are missing from it today (Fig. 22). Gaultier
must have accidentally torn them off. There is a small hole stitched up with the same
black cotton thread and a large knot of white thread on top of the hole. It further
indicates the heavy use that the kapitaq underwent at the peak of Gaultier’s
Figure 20 The back view of IV-D-1116. Photograph by the author.
A comparison of photographs of the full regalia in 1928 to an image taken
presumably ten years later also demonstrates the change in the condition of the kapitaq
(Figs. 1&17 compared to Fig. 22). In the images from 1928, the manohinik (white
breast panels) are clean, spotless and uniform in colouration. The pukiq (white caribou
skin) trim throughout the early images show evenness in colour suggesting that the fur
was fully intact. The same goes for the brown caribou fur. There are natural
irregularities because it is Peary Caribou skin, which tends to have spotting, but the
mottling is caused from moths. In the image from Paris in 1937/8, the pukiq around the
sleeves was already worn off, which is confirmed in the more current images of the
kapitaq (Fig. 20).
The rise of Romanticism hailed the understanding of folk cultures as a binary
opposite to modernity and Gaultier’s performances fit into this artistic movement.
Juliette’s presented her performances as “folk songs.” A typical performance for her
involved multiple costume changes and lantern slides depicting the cultures that she
played. In order to manage the costume changes in her performances, she had pauses
where the lantern slides and films were presented.107 Furthermore, the folk cultures of all
of these different people were Othered by Anglo-Canadian society, and as folk, they
were viewed as a source of a truer representation of the nation. Stemming in particular
from the German intellectual tradition, the Folk was as Ian McKay describes it:
As one of the great abstractions of Romanticism, “the Folk” came to be
regarded as the epitome of simple truth, work, and virtue, the antithesis of
all that was overcivilized, tired, conventional and insincere. The Folk were
closer to nature and could respond more spontaneously to “natural music.”
For romantic nationalists, the “Folk” were those whose very existence and
culture testified to the possibility and necessity of the nation.108
Gaultier fits the category of a romantic nationalist. Her connection with Prime Minister
William Lyon Mackenzie King highlights this romantic nationalism the best. She wrote
107 Recital Management Arthur Judson, “Folk Songs of Canada Presented in Costume by Juliette
Gaultier De La Verendrye” (Victor Records, circa 1928), B218 F12, CMC.
108 Ian McKay, The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-
Century Nova Scotia (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), 1213,
many letters to him describing how her work was motivated by her love of Canada. This
was a labour of love, she argued, and service for her nation. Mackenzie King clearly
agreed, as is clear in his letter of recommendation for Gaultier:
She [Gaultier] has studied the beginnings of music among the Indians and
Esquimaux, and by her renditions of their changes and the French
Canadian Songs, had created a field of interest and entertainment as
fascinating as it is of value historically and dramatically. In any portrayal
of the background of Canada’s picturesque and romantic past, her services
as a highly trained artist will, I believe prove to be of the utmost value.109
This letter points explicitly to the understanding of folk culture and music as an
important part of a picturesque and romantic past. Although Gaultier and others were
studying music and memories of people of that period, Indians were relentlessly placed
in the past tense. This eased the use of their music to serve the entire nation.
As Benedict Anderson suggests. modern nations were created through a discourse
that led to an “imagined community,” where a sentiment brings together people that
may never meet, but feel connected to each other nonetheless through their shared
myths.110 Systems of expectation that defined the Indian in terms of the noble savage,
the primitive, the romance of the forbidden exotic, and the disappearing Indian served
the dual goal of “Othering” and building an imagined community—a nation.111
Anderson suggests this kind of nationalism has cultural roots so the “Othering” of
Indigenous people and the appropriation of aspects of their cultures suit this model.112 In
this situation, folk music and Aboriginal music fit the imagined political nation by
109 William Lyon Mackenzie King, 29 December 1928, CMC B616 F1.
110 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of
Nationalism, Rev. ed. (New York: Verso, 2006), 6.
111 Philip Deloria, Indians in Unexpected Places (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004),
112 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 7.
creating an exotic sound unique to the Americas. Michael Pisani and Philip J. Deloria
argue that the Indian Music movement of the turn of the twentieth century was a
significant component of nationalism while simultaneously expressing degrees of
Otherness in the context of the United States.113 Deloria and Pisani focus on the use of
Indian melodies and how they were appropriated and integrated into Western sounds
and musical aesthetics through harmonization, orchestral instrumentation and
Figure 21 Juliette Gaultier in a Town Hall promotional photo in New York City, 1927. CMC Archives
B327 F1.
113 Michael Pisani, Imagining Native America in Music (New Haven: Yale University Press,
2005), 5; Deloria, Unexpected Places, 182184.
Barbeau believed in the sort of nationalist hybrid aesthetic described by Pisani and
Deloria. Juliette strongly resisted this sort of musical hybridity, she was determined to
present her folk songs as authentically as possible. In his frustration, Barbeau explained
that: “to my mind and confidentially, she will never do very much with that material,
since she insists presenting them in semi-primitive form.”114 He was connected to the
primitivist and anti-modernist movement with his close connections with the artists of
the Group of Seven and among many others. He saw Indigenous art as a source of
inspiration for Euro-Canadian artists, essentially taking up the mantle from the
degenerating Indians.115
Anthropologists attempted to notate the songs, and in the process unavoidably
westernized them by attempting to place the melodies in a musical notation
framework.116 For Gaultier’s Inuit songs, she used the transcripts done by Helen H.
Roberts and Jenness that were published as Eskimo Songs: Songs of the Copper
Eskimos. Many of Gaultier’s letters to Barbeau include requests for more songs. Juliette
was emphatic in ensuring that her rendition of the music was as true to the original as
possible. Gaultier wrote to Mackenzie King:
As to the value of these Eskimo or concerts of Folklore in Canada, being of
a National nature and beneficial to the publicity of Canada. I might say,
perhaps without boasting my programs and Exibits [sic] are the only ones
representing all of Canada in a Natural way and authenticly [sic] without
any modernization…117
114 Barbeau to Ernest MacMillan, 20 January 1928, CMC B617 F3.
115 Jessup, “Marius Barbeau and Early Ethnographic Cinema,” 292.
116 Deloria, Unexpected Places, 200203.
117 Gaultier to Mackenzie King, 19 May 1935, CMC B616 F1.
Gaultier understood how the Canadian Government could benefit with her
performances, but she only received lukewarm support even with Mackenzie King
behind her. Gaultier’s letters to Mackenzie King initially could be interpreted as her
shrewdly using ideas of nationhood and folklore to garner support. Yet, after gaining
little support, she continued to write this way to Mackenzie King and it suggests that
she genuinely believed in the power of her performances to represent Canada’s folk
cultures and therefore Canada as a nation.
Figure 22 Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye possibly taken in Paris in 1937. CMC Archives B 327, F1.
According to Noeline Martin, who worked extensively on the Gaultier collection,
it is unknown whether Gaultier ever had an opportunity to hear the wax cylinder
recordings of the Inuit songs taken by Jenness.118 After listening to the recordings of the
songs taken by Jenness as well as Gaultier’s own recordings or the same piece, I argue
that she worked mostly from the transcripts. She may have had the opportunity to hear
the wax cylinders during a visit to the National Museum, but her interpretations of the
music suggests that it was based largely, if not entirely, on the transcriptions and not the
recordings. The differences are striking; even the tones that she uses are based on
western tonality, which makes sense considering they were transcribed in western
notation. Stefansson wrote:
I told you at the time but I think I should write you something of what I
thought about your Eskimo singing. It was just like being among the North
Alaska, Mackenzie River, and Copper Eskimos again, for except for the
quality of your beautiful and well trained [sic] voice, you rendered the
songs exactly as if the Eskimo themselves were singing. So far as I know
this is the first time that Eskimo songs have been sung just as they are
instead of being merely used as the basis for inspiration for some sort of
Stefansson highlights two issues here in her performances. She was seen as presenting
the authentic sounds of the Inuit when Stefansson states that, “you rendered the songs
exactly as if the Eskimos themselves were singing.”120 Yet, in the very same sentence,
Stefansson acknowledges that her western singing training lent a more beautiful quality
to the music. In his eyes, the songs remain authentic because they are sung plainly with
little or no accompaniment. Stefansson furthered this point when he wrote another letter
118 Noeline Martin, “The Music of Juliette Gaultier De La Verendrye,” n.d., CMC B615 F13.
119 Recital Management Arthur Judson, “Folk Songs of Canada Presented in Costume by Juliette
Gaultier De La Verendrye.”
120 Ibid.
saying that when “she sings her songs either without accompaniment or with only a
drum which she beats herself, you might well think you were listening to an Eskimo.”121
The songs that Juliette chose for her folk song performances were based on what
was available and collected by anthropologists of the National Museum. She did collect
some music from the Stoney Reserve in Morley, Alberta but according to her these were
“not too interesting.”122 She had a select number of Inuinnait songs that she performed.
These songs included: Old Chant and An Old Song both originally sung by Kaneyoq,
the adopted sister of Jenness; and several Weather Incantations, sung by Kaneyoq,
Ivyatailaq and Haqumyaq.123 Gaultier also performed songs of the Eskimo of Northern
Alaska, and made a clear differentiation between the two groups; her performances also
typically included pieces of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth, Ktunaxa speakers, Dakelh, Acadians
and French-Canadians.124 Gaultier labeled herself a folk singer, but she maintained
distinct divisions in her performances, highlighting the impetus of the period for
categorization. Gaultier’s performances present a paradox that seems lost on her
audience. Her highly classificatory presentation of the songs as well as her bid for
legitimacy through her National Museum connections do not fit with her Romantic
depiction of these “simpler” people.
121 Stefansson to Jenness, 25 May 1926, CMC B615 F8.
122 Gaultier to Barbeau, 7 November 1927, CMC B615 F5.
123 These pieces are included in Jenness’ report Songs of the Copper Eskimo, and the numbers
included below pertain to the transcriptions of those pieces, the other number is the accession number of
the recording that may be heard at the archives at the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Old Chant (No.
85 IV.C.85c); An Old Song (No. 83) by sung by Kaneyok; Weather Incantations (No. 91 IV.C.81c sung
by Kaneyoq; No. 104 IV.C.59b sung by Ivyatailaq; No. 88 IV.C.63d sung by Haqumyaq).1
124 Gaultier referred to the Nuu-Chah-Nulth as the Nootka, the Ktunaxa speakers as Kootnay, and
the Dakelh as the Carrier.
The kapitaq was a critical element of her role as a quasi performer-scientist. Her
costuming, along with her use of music recorded and notated by anthropologists, were
what lent her that air of authenticity that she strove for. It was also what assured her
intellectual authority in the eyes of her audience. In a 1929 programme for the
Teacher’s College at Bridgewater State University, conductor Walter J. Damrosch was
quoted saying: “She [Gaultier] has succeeded in creating a field all her own in the over-
crowded world of music…Her concert are interesting not only to the music lover but to
the student of races.”125 The reviews of her performances consistently highlighted how
she lived with the people whose songs she sang. One particularly notorious article
“Knows her Eskimos” Gaultier transcribed for Jenness in a letter, the emphasis is hers:
Here is a copy of what was sent me [sic] today. Which appeared in NY
paper in Sept. while I was in Canada! ‘Knows her Eskimos! Juliette
Gaultier, one of the first woman explorers and daughter of the Canadian
Minister of Mines, will tell of her life among the Eskimos and sing some
really Eskimo songs when she appears at WFBH tonight at 5 o'clock. Miss
Gaultier is an intimate friend of Stefansson! and knows many Explorers.
She is the possessor of a chiming soprano voice and will impersonate a
real Eskimo!!!!!!’126
Most reviews and reports understood that she was wearing a “costume.” They still
depict her as someone who travelled to collect the music, met the people whose songs
she sung and wore their clothing. An article in the New York Times explained that
Gaultier “sang the Eskimo songs of Northern Alaska in Native costume, with a
background of Totem Poles and Aurora Borealis.”127 These reviews did not seem to care
about the differences between Aboriginal cultures. Rather, they were all jumbled into
125 “Rare Musical Treat for Teacher’s College,” 20 March 1929, programme CMC B616 F1
126 1926/10/04 Gaultier to Jenness, 4 October 1926, CMC B645 F1.
127 Recital Management Arthur Judson, “Folk Songs of Canada Presented in Costume by Juliette
Gaultier De La Verendrye.” New York Times extract, 9 April 1927.
certain signifiers of what made an Indian, such as Totem Poles and the Northern Lights.
That totem poles were made by North-West Coast peoples and the Aurora is visible
quite far south and isn’t exclusively Inuit was irrelevant to Gaultier’s viewers.
For one reviewer, Gaultier conjured up a mystical world of Inuit songs, totem
poles and northern lights. In 1927, Stephen Graham described a concert of Gaultier
(whom he mistakenly called Therese) with Stefansson.128 He saw it as creating a
timeless past that was lost and yet never would die: “her chant is an Eskimo lullaby
sung before New York was, and no doubt to be sung after it is gone.”129 Graham
described his transportation from a bohème club in New York to an out of body
experience, her performance a “miracle.”130 He did not give the Inuit music a chance to
be human made. For him, they are already dead and gone, perhaps never truly existing
as real human beings. 131
Despite all of the care she took to ensure anthropological accuracy, Gaultier
ultimately understood Aboriginal peoples in a highly romanticized way. In an early
letter to Barbeau, Juliette explained that: “It has created quite a sensation this Eskimo
music. It is really very beautiful to one who understands music and anthropology.
128 The entire passage is included in the appendix as it warrants being read in its entirety.
129 Stephen Graham, “At Romany Marie’s,” in New York Nights (New York: George H. Doran
Co., 1927), 79, http://name.umdl.umich.edu/BAA2637. The entire passage is included in the appendix as
it warrants being read in its entirety.
130 Ibid., 81.
131 Not all of her audience agreed that Gaultier presented a successful concert. Marguerite
D’Harcourt-Raoul wrote to Barbeau her impressions of Gaultier when she performed in Paris:
“I wish to outline for you my own impression: she has a pleasing voice with a genuine racy tang of
the soil, excellently adapted to the singing of the French songs; as regards the Esquimau and Indian
renditions, you feel that she has heard the natives sing and must have reproduced approximately what her
ear retained. I found her costumes authentic and well-suited to the concealment of her overplump peasant
physique. For the native chants she made her own accompaniment on a drum, which she has not learned
to handle, lacking rhythmic subtlety: she merely punctuated the songs with regular and widely-spaced
beats of the drum quite uninteresting.” CMC B617 F3.
Personally I am very taken with it all and just love being an Eskimo!”132 After her work
at Indian Days and her visit to the Stoney Reserve in Morley, Juliette continued to not
understand the implications of her dress when visiting the Aboriginal people that
participated in Indian Days. She seemed to be blithely unaware that she was working
with people whose cultural practices were actively restricted by the government while
she was free to “play Indian.”133 In fact, after returning from Morley, Gaultier wrote:
I love the Indians they have won my heart. There were so kind to me, they
fascinate me. I could listen to them for ever [sic]. My trip was a wonderful
one only not long enough. Am so grateful to you and the Canadian Pacific
Rly [sic] for having sent me to study. I can stage much better my Indian
programme. I have more experience and more Indianized!134
To her, Indigenous cultures were something that might feel nostalgic about even when
actually visiting a reserve and meeting actual people. Their cultures were not ossified,
despite the systematic outlawing of many cultural practices. Gaultier presented herself
as having a genuine appreciation for the people she was represented, but it was still an
essentialist understanding of their culture with assumptions of superiority of Western
culture and aesthetics. She was, with her opera training and elite connections a social
class distinct from the indigenous people whose music she was performing, and she
held herself above them. Gaultier often expressed her admiration for indigenous
cultures, but her programmes repeatedly express how she saved these songs from
oblivion, and imbued them with aesthetic value.135
132 Gaultier to Barbeau, 6 June 1926, CMC B615 F5.
133 Katherine Pettipas, Severing the Ties That Bind: Government Repression of Indigenous
Religious Ceremonies on the Prairies (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1994), 35.
134 Gaultier to Barbeau, 7 November 1927, CMC B615 F5.
135 Slominska, “Interpreting Success and Failure,” 113.
Gaultier expected the kapitaq to provide her with an air of authenticity and
authority as a performer-ethnomusicologist. The kapitaq resisted its use as a costume in
its deterioration outside of its Arctic home through the shedding of fur, the moth-eaten
marks and the great tears in the skin. It was not meant for hot lights on a stage or laying
folded up in a trunk. It exerted a discomfort in that treatment in is deterioration over the
thirty years it was with Gaultier. The kapitaq was returned to the National Museum of
Man in 1958, the year that her sister, Eva passed away.136 All of the items that Gaultier
borrowed were returned at this time.
The kapitaq’s story did not end with the end of Gaultier’s career. It sat in the
Museum cold storage and until I photographed it in 2011: little was done with it for
forty years beyond some basic checking of its condition in the 1980s. My interest in the
kapitaq adds yet another chapter in its story, making me part of its story. It is no longer
a costume, nor an object of warmth and dance on Victoria Island. For me, it offers a
look into nearly one hundred years of history in Canada. My digitization and
photographing objectifies it and removes its materiality. We can see it on a flat
computer screen, but we lose certain knowledge in that format. The sense of the
direction that the caribou fur flows, an understanding of the thickness of the skin and the
fineness of the skinning, the smell and its weight. It is difficult to see the stitches
Gaultier made to the skin. It is possible to see some of these things on a photograph, but
I experience something being in its presence, I feel its venerability when I am in the
136 Ibid., 127.
room with it that I do not feel from a photograph. I know that that is a projection of an
aura that is in my mind. Somehow, sitting in a museum on white acid-free paper, close
enough to look, smell, but not touch, makes it a sacred object. This itself is another
stage in its history, a period when we understand museums as storehouses for our
nation’s treasures and history.
Through the close study of three phases in the kapitaq’s life, I have shown the
value of this object’s history. With the kapitaq in the centre, we view the historical
moments circling around it. The production of the kapitaq tells a story about the artistry
of Inuit seamstresses and about how clothes reflect a person’s place in society. The
collecting of the kapitaq demonstrates the mentality when salvage ethnography was a
central tenet in anthropology. Its collection tells us about how Quablunaat felt obligated
to rescue Inuinnait culture from modernity and in doing so, altered Inuit cultures.
Juliette Gaultier de la Verendrye, a performer-ethnomusicologist romanticized the folk,
and tried to preserve its authenticity. She took the kapitaq to the stage to give the
appearance of an expert in the field while maintaining her role as an entertainer. Finally,
the kapitaq tells us a bit more about ourselves. Our expectations of what is “right” for
the kapitaq says more about what we expect museum objects to do than anything else.
We sometimes forget that those artifacts in a museum were something else before they
were artifacts and they each have a story to tell.
The kapitaq was made to mean things at its own times, but it has its own identity,
and played a dynamic role in the agency of others. It meant different things to the
seamstress, to Stefansson, Hadley, Jenness, Barbeau, Gaultier and me. Through all of
those changes in what it meant to different people, it still maintained an identity of its
own. Hearing its story, we hear it performing its identity most strongly when it was
physically altered. Those moments of change between people and the kapitaq show the
interactions the strongest. The skinning and tanning of the caribou was a physical act on
what would be the kapitaq. Its nature changed and the seamstress was in dialogue with
the skin; determining exactly how she should cut the pattern on the skin, what parts
would be used for trim and how it would fit the wearer. The National Museum indelibly
changed the kapitaq’s identity when the museum staff inked the skin with its name
declaring themselves its possessor. The person who inked the kapitaq also had to think
about where to write the name and number. The nature of the kapitaq determined where
the writing could be put. Gaultier also had many conversations with the kapitaq. Each of
her performances were different depending on the facility, the audience, and Gaultier’s
goals, yet the kapitaq stayed the same. Then, when the tail tore and when the charms
were ripped out, she chose to quickly stitch it up with thick cotton thread. She decided
that it was better to sew up the rips than to leave them. She changed the parka forever
because of it. Her sewing was just as much as signature as the National Museum’s.
I have not marked the kapitaq the way the seamstress, Gaultier, or the Museum
have, but I am still part of its story. It exists and it will for a long time with all of the
conservation measures put in place. Yet, like all things, it will die a second time just as
it first died when the caribou was shot. Its second life as clothing, as a costume, and as
an artifact will eventually come to an end. Its story is a story of many people and many
moments. It is a story of surviving, exploring, performing and being.
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Canadian Museum of Civilization, Fonds Noeline Martin Boxes 614-618
Canadian Museum of Civilization, Fonds Diamond Jenness Box 645 folder 1
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