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Course & Subject Guides

Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian, Spring-Summer 2018: Noatak Kaiaks

This library guide is an overview of the Archives & Special Collection exhibit on Edward S. Curtis and The North American Indian.

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None But the Most Expert Canoe-Men

The Eskimo of this area, by virtue of the physiography of their domain, gain their livelihood chiefly from the sea, although during half of the year they suffer the usual rigors of the arctic winter, with little opportunity to obtain food from either land or water.  With the coming of temperate weather, however, and the breaking-up of the great ice-fields, they go forth in their skin craft in quest of the food so long needed, buffeted constantly by sweeping gales and the treacherous, shifting, grinding ice-packs.  None but the most expert canoe-men could survive the stress of these arctic conditions, let alone the acquirement of food in the face of every difficulty.  The oft-repeated narratives of hunters who put out to sea in their frail skin kaiaks, never to return, afford one a faint idea of some of the vicissitudes of Eskimo food-seekers in a lone and inhospitable region.

Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Text XX, xv, 1930.

Curtis device

Noatak Kaiaks

Photogravure of Noatak Kaiaks

Noatak Kaiaks, 1928

These skin-covered craft, of marvelous lightness and efficiency, are of outstanding importance to the Eskimo. Remarkable too is the manner in which they are handled by their owners, who are exceedingly expert even in rough water.

Print caption by Edward S. Curtis, The North American Indian, Portfolio XX, Plate no. 718, 1930.


Banner of Eskimo peoples