Snowknife - ROM2005_5506_1



Maker: Nunatsiarmiut or Nunavimiut
Medium:Long steel blade let into ivory handle
Geography: Nunavut or Quebec, Canada
Date: 1910-1914
47.5 x 8.5 x 1.4 cm
Object number: HC1815
Credit Line: Gift of Sir William Mackenzie; the Robert J. Flaherty Collection
On view
Gallery Location:Daphne Cockwell Gallery dedicated to First Peoples art & culture

Bone or ivory knives with a slight curve in the blade were used to carve blocks of snow for snowhouse construction. The preferred snow was from a bank formed by a single snowstorm, as blocks taken from snowbanks formed over a series of storms tended to break easily. Following the introduction of metal to the Arctic, the Inuit made snowknives with single-edged steel blades.

In 1910, the Canadian Northern Railway commissioned Robert J. Flaherty (1884 – 1951) to search for iron ore deposits along the northeast coast of Hudson's Bay. Flaherty visited the Arctic over several years during which he collected a wide range of Inuit artifacts. He became interested in filming Inuit life and his popular 1922 silent film, Nanook of the North, garnered him acclaim as a documentary film pioneer.

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