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If the women had only to take care of their respective rooms, their work would be as nothing. To pile the bedclothes up against the back wall, sweep the palletskin over with a bird's wing, and throw the sweepings under the pallet, that nothing shall be wasted, are not overwhelming tasks. Nor is the cooking, for it is of the most primitive kind. All that is not eaten raw is boiled. Nothing is ever roasted, and there are no complicated dishes. Nor do they trouble themselves about a neat table or cleansing the utensils. The dishes are never washed either before or after a meal.
In an Eskimo community there is no division of labor. Every one is his, or more rightly her, own tradesman or mechanic. Neither are there any shops where one can go and buy the needed things or the materials from which to make the things. It is true that in almost all places where a hundred or more persons live there may be a shop kept by the Danish administration; but it contains only such things as the Greenlanders cannot procure for themselves--flour, groats, peas, coffee, sugar, tea, tobacco, cotton and woolen stuffs, boards, hardware, etc. Whatever else the people need, they must produce themselves, and the work is performed almost entirely by the women.
The seal-hunting time, which begins in autumn and continues until spring, is the hardest time for the woman; for then she has to take care of what her husband, son, or brother brings home. When the hunter comes to the shore with his prey, he has already done his duty; and then it is for the women to do theirs. He leaves the heavy slain animal on the beach, while all the women from the house run down to haul it up over the icy cliff to the house; or, if it is very cold, into the house itself, where the mistress, assisted by all the other female inmates, flays the skin, quarters the body, scrapes off the blubber from the skin.
While the skin is still wet, it must be stretched with force for drying. If it is small, it is stretched on the snow-covered ground; if it is large, on frames made for that purpose. This is not agreeable work when the temperature is ten or twelve degrees below zero.
When the skin is dry, it has to be prepared according to its size and quality. A
large one is used as a cover for the women's boat or for the kayak, to lay over the pallet, or to keep for sale. A small one is used for the outer or inner kamik skin, or for breeches.
It is not necessary to describe here what perhaps can interest only a tanner, but the work of the women is incredibly hard labor, and calls for great skill and intelligence.
As soon as the skins are ready for use, the women cut them with a knife called the ulo, a broad, flat, half-moon-shaped knife, with a handle in the middle. The skins are cut into the strangest shapes, which no tailor or dressmaker would ever imagine could be fitted to the human form, but which, nevertheless, in their clever hands, become diverse articles of dress, with the most elaborate embroideries, made by sewing together small bits of the colored skins. The thread that is used is made of the sinews of the seal, whale, or reindeer. It is pulled out of the flesh, dried, and split. When it is used in sewing, it is rolled against the cheek with the palm of the hand. The whale thread is the best. Every sort of thread has its special use.
One of the most important labors is covering the kayak and repairing, or covering the woman's boat. The kayak of a good seal hunter has to be covered every year, while the woman's boat needs covering only every other year. It is almost incomprehensible how the slender, small women's hands can master the skins, which are stretched like the head of a drum. But the work is done so skilfully, and with such nimble fingers, that it is a pleasure to watch it, and all the while there is such a chattering, gossiping, and laughing, that no one would think the work hard and important.
All these tasks are not, of course, the work of every day; but over and above all this are the every-day returning tasks, such as the care of clothes. The Greenlanders have but few suits of clothes, which must be examined every day. When the hunter comes home, he is wet from top to toe, and every piece of his dress has to be dried over the lamp or in the open air, turned inside out, stretched, rubbed, wrung, and pulled for hours, until it gets smooth and pliable. To all this must be added the embroideries that decorate these garments, and that take
much time. It is of course only the young folk, with their good eyes, who do this embroidering; the harder and more tiresome work must be done by the older folk.
The winter is therefore the hardest time for the Greenland women, and glad they are when the sun rises higher and higher in the sky; for then they know that soon all the labor for that season will have an end.
The short summer has come, bringing light and warmth. Now is the time to go to the angmassat places. The angmassat is a little fish in size between a sardine and a herring. These fishes are caught and dried by the million, and are, or ought to be, the chief food of the Eskimo in winter. They come in shoals to the shore to spawn for a short time in the month of June, and are then caught in scoops, shaken out on the beach, and dried in the air. The women's boat is put into the water, and five gay women seize the oars. The men follow in their kayaks.
Arrived at the place, the women in stantly set about building the tent, lazily
assisted by some of the men. Last year's wall of stone and turf has suffered much from the bad weather in winter, and must first be repaired. Then the oars are arranged, like the feathers in a fan and bound together at the top, over the entrance. Old boat skins and kayak skins are spread over the oars, and fixed with heavy stones at the outer edge. Then when a pallet has been hastily made of some bottom boards from the boat, the tent is ready for use for a month in all sorts of weather.
The shoals of fish come swarming to the coast, stay only a moment, and are off again. The women and children strew those that have been scooped up on the beach, that they may dry quickly. If rain sets in, the fish will most likely be spoiled. After the fish have been turned and turned again until they are dry, they are stuffed into bags of skin and taken by boat to the winter home. There the women immediately set to work to store them away. Because their houses are too small to keep the fish there, they have storerooms (kimatulivis), which are natural caves or
grottoes cut in the mountains, often a long way off.
After the fishing is ended, if the weather be good, it is time for turf-cutting. This must be done before going inland to shoot reindeer and catch salmon, that the turf may lie and dry during their absence, and be fit for use when they return.
The reindeer hunting, or the hunting of the stag, is to the Eskimo what the sports of the country or the seaside are to civilized people.
The reindeer grounds are often a hundred miles away from the winter home, up the fiords, but the preparations for going are few. Before they go, they remove the roofs of their houses, that they may thoroughly air during their absence. It may be thoroughly washed too, perhaps, by the heavy showers that often fall in summer.
This stay inland is the best time of all the year. From July to September they stay on the hunting-grounds. In July there is no difference between day and night; and, if only the sun shines and the sky is clear, the people delight to lie in the hills and plains that are covered with heather and flowers, and to inhale the warm, clean air, and the odor of the sweet and aromatic mountain herbs.
As soon as possible the hunters leave the tent place (the tent has been put up in the same way as for the angmassat fishing) to go in among the mountains for deer. They are commonly accompanied by one or two women who have to cook for them, to look after their kamiks, and especially to carry the killed animals back to the tent. On these excursions they often stay several days away, and then the women who are left behind enjoy life in every way. They have little to do but to look after the salmon nets that are spread in the stream or cut up the fish when caught.
But everything has an end. When the mountains begin to cast long shadows, and the heather turns a brownish tint from the ripe berries, the time to return has come.
At the winter place again perhaps rain and sleet have done their work, and the walls of the house have fallen in. While the men contemplate the destruction, and here and there repair the framework, the women go to collecting the fallen and scattered stones and gathering heather from the nearest hills to repair the house. When the cut turf has been secured, quan
tities of heather gathered for the winter, straw plucked and dried for an intermediate layer in the kamiks, mosses gathered for wicks for the lamps, all is ready for winter.
From Nature's hand the women are nicely formed, with slender limbs and small hands and feet. But, as wise mothers know that nature cannot always be depended upon in all details, they make very small kamiks, into which they press the little new-born baby foot, that it may not develop too quickly. It is not to give the foot another form, as the Chinese do, but only to retard its growth; and, really, a prettier and better-formed foot than that of an Eskimo it would be hard to find. The young maidens are very handsome, but they soon get rough in complexion and clumsy in form. Women that have. been married only a few years look old and worn out. They rarely live to be old, but those who do, become so hideous that they are like scarecrows.
The women are quiet and peaceable, but they possess little real character. They are kind and good-hearted so far as not to do mischief, but one cannot say that they are good in the sense that they display kindness, goodness, or pity when they cannot see their profit by it. They are envious of one another, and will try to injure their adversaries by slandering them. They are clever and quick of apprehension, and are used by Europeans in their houses. as cooks, chambermaids, nursery maids, but they very soon get tired of the multitude of tasks in a civilized household, and grow negligent.
The dress of the women is the same, summer and winter, and is worn in the It consists first of a shiftwhich, in spite of the name, is, nevertheless, not shifted very often-made of common cotton stuff, and cut in the simplest possible form, with no embroideries. Över this they wear the timiak, of bird's skin, with its cover of colored cotton stuff for daily use, and woolen, silk, or velveteen for Sundays and holidays. The hood is never used by the women, who always leave it hanging down. Around the neck the young girls wear a collar more than a quarter of a yard wide, made of glass pearls set in the most varied patterns. This pearl collar is worn only by young girls, and by wives until they have got their first
child. After that, the pearls are used as fringes and tassels for the amaut.
The pet garments of the girls, and of married women, too, are the breeches and the kamiks. They take much time to make these garments as fine as possible. The breeches, which are worn next the bare body, are made of costly sealskins or reindeer skins. They are not fastened to the body by anything, but their stiffness keeps them in place. The Greenlanders know nothing of buttons or hooks or buckles or braces,
least on the wo
men's garments. The kamiks consist of an inner stocking of
skin with the hair inside, and an outer boot made of dyed or painted skin in the most screeching colors. bright red, blue, violet. The most valued are the white halt-boots which are used on Sundays, holidays, and on certain occasions like marriages The sole of the Kamik is not hard and stift, but sott and pls able.
their bearers. The wives wear blue in all shades, the maidens red, the unmarried mothers green in all shades, and the widows wear black. All other colors are forbidden. In front they like to fasten on the ribbon some shining object, a brooch or an odd ear-ring. For lack of other things, they will pin on a piece of colored silver or gold paper. To get the top firm and stiff, the hair must be drawn very tight. In time the hair on each side of the head is torn out, and two large bald spots appear, which are not very becoming. They wear no head-cover ex
De soles of the inner and outer kamik is a laver of straw, that every day must be taken out and drod
The hair on the national bead-dress is Be dag or even warg et, and is put taken
cept the handkerchief in different stuffs, cotton, wool, or
are very coquettish. They may look decent and modest. especially when they know themselves noticed by European ladies. but they are not
When a woman becomes a widow, she is not, as with civilized people, an object of pity.
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