An essay written by Paulosie Kasadluak of Inoucdjouac on October 1976. It was translated by Ali Tulugak and edited by Marybelle Myers for inclusion in Port Harrison/Inoucdjouac, by Jean Blodgett, curator of the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG), and published by WAG in 1977, after an exhibition of the same name was held at the gallery in 1976.
It is not only to make money that we carve. Nor do we carve make-believe things. What we show in our carvings is the life we have lived in the past right up to today. We show the truth.
We carve the animals because they are important to us as food. We carve Inuit figures because in that way we can show ourselves to the world as we were in the past and as we now are. That is why we carve men hunting and building igloos and women making something that they will use, maybe sewing kamiks or clothing or using an ulu. No matter what activity the carved figure is engaged in, something about it will be true. That is because we carve to show what we have done as people. There is nothing marvellous about it. It is there for everyone to see. It is just the truth.
It is the same with the work which the women do with their hands. We do not reveal ourselves only in stone. The work of the women shows the type of clothing which we as people had. That, too, contributes to the truth.
We Inuit have had many experiences. We have used just about everything for clothing - skins and furs and modern day cotton and wool. We have eaten all kinds of animals and, for our hunting gear, have used their bones, fur and skin. Our clothing also came from the animals we killed. So, these carvings we make of the animals and the Inuk in traditional clothing, engaged in his work, all of them reveal what we were or what we are now. Nothing marvelous about it.
Carving means many things to us. One has to find stone in order to make carvings. Summer or winter, each brings its own difficulty in obtaining the stone. This is something which I believe the people in the South do not understand. You have to think of where the stone comes from and the problems one goes through getting it out. The problem of locating it in the first place and the distance one has to carry it. I could write many words about all this.
Before one finds the stone, it is useless. It just exists. Maybe it is exposed on the surface of the earth. Maybe it is beneath the water. One thing I know is that the best kind of stone is usually the hardest for us to get.
It is hard in summer because you have to carry the stone to your canoe all the way from the quarry where you extracted it by hand. It is tedious work but the thought that this will enable you to feed your family and develop your cooperative provides you with the initiative and stamina to survive this trouble. As does the thought that in this way, we will be able to communicate to the rest of the world about ourselves. Even so, it is back-breaking work. Even when you do not have to carry the stone so far to your canoe at the shore, there is always a certain amount of danger in transporting the heavy rock by canoe. And you cannot even eat it!
Getting the stone out of the ground - even in summer when the ground is not frozen - is hard work because we do not have any fancy equipment. It is only because we help each other and work together to extract the stone that we are able to succeed.
In winter, it is particularly difficult to get at the stone. The snow can drift five to ten feet over the site so that you are unsure of the exact spot. You have to take a chance and when you shovel all that snow away you are still left to dig in the hard frozen earth.
The stone is never the same. Some is black and some is green. I really know the green stone because it is at a place where I grew up. The stone we are using now in Inoucdjouac is mined from a site about forty miles out of town. It costs a lot of money even to get to that place. You need proper equipment - skidoo or canoe - to go there and proper maintenance so you will not break down.
If you go by canoe, you go through huge swells and waves along the way because part of your journey is through the open Hudson's Bay where there are no little islands to shelter you. It is not much better in the winter because your snowmobile needs gas which costs $2.25 a gallon now and your route lies over the unevenly frozen sea ice. But some sites, I hear, are even farther away that than from the settlements.
It is unfortunate but the stone which is close to our villages always seems to be of a poor quality and useless in our carvings. What I have said may be enough to convince you that making a carving is not play. It is man's work.
There is much that happens from the time the stone is found and the time the people in the south see it as a bird or anything. And everything is done with your hands. A man is dependent upon his hands when he wants to show what his life is.