I’ve been thinking about the reasons we have for making things.
I finished my kamiik a couple weeks ago. It was a wonderful surprise to be able to finish them so quickly. My ayanguaq let me come over to work on them, and decided I didn’t have to totally redo the soles, which about made me cry for joy. Then she spent the next afternoon and all day the next day over at my house helping me finish them. Since the kids were also home and awake all that time, she definitely did more than half the work.
In addition to repeated reminders to not rush and ask for help, I learned a couple more things from the end of this project.
The first is how different reasons can be for making things. There’s sewing because it’s an ordinary part of your daily survival, which is quite different to sewing to participate in your free time with helping your culture survive. I have a ton of respect for those who learned or are learning these crafts as adults, with a passion that helps them fit it around the new normal of westernized survival. Their stories are important; they are defining a sustainable future for their people.
I’ve also accepted that this is not my story. It would not be right for my making kamiik to be about me. I live between worlds as a choice; my friends do not. At best I am a cheerleader, but mostly, I am just a guest.
I’m super thankful for my kamiik, and for the women who made them with me, and I hope that these skills continue to be passed on, and that Inuit (and their friends) are still making practical, beautiful traditional clothing a long time from now.
One more thing to add: a couple of people have asked me if they are warm. Uh, yeah! I haven’t even finished all the layers yet (still gotta make those inner sealskin slippers), and these are at least as warm as my (Kamik brand) commercial boots. And this is probably the least warm style of kamiik; the ones with haired seal, or caribou, or black skin all over are warmer. And if you’re going out on the land, you might make an outer slipper to put overtop as well.
How are they to walk in? They’re a bit slippery, which takes getting used to, and there’s a little maintenance involved in making sure they stay stretched and not too wet or dry. That’s the price of using a living animal’s skin which has not been commercially tanned; as far as I know it’s only been treated with flour, chlorox, dawn, sunlight, and a lot of manual labor.
My favorite thing about them is that you can feel the land under your feet. I was the sort of kid who snuck outside without shoes or socks whenever I could, and walked on gravel to toughen up my soles in the summer. I miss walking barefoot on the grass, feeling the earth with my toes. But now I get to feel the land, and that means a lot to me. Some people don’t like that, but I really do.