Puurtaq Project

Life in an igloo

Igloos were built to different configurations to suit the size of the family. No one wanted it to be dripping inside, or for soot to build up, especially after a storm. The igloos were cleaned every day. On waking up, they smoothed the sleeping platform (also made of snow) with their feet. Igloos usually had two entrances. A block of ice served as a window, and it had to be scraped frequently to keep it transparent, because it supplied the only light during the day. It was also necessary to clean the floor of accumulated dirt, soot and sometimes urine. The old snow was removed and replaced with clean snow. The bed at the rear of the igloo required lots of maintenance, because it was one of the places that got the dirtiest. The Inuit were careful to keep their igloos clean and livable, just as they now keep their houses. The worst chore was to clean the cracks in the floor. Once cleaned, the igloo was tidy and bright.

In the morning, the igloo was very cold, because it was not heated during the night. Everyone slept naked in the big bed, with their clothing piled on top to keep them warmer. By morning, the kamiks (boots) were frozen stiff, and they had to be forced on.

Everyday, the children had to fetch water and take out the waste bucket even if it was very cold out. Then they did the same chores for their grandparents and elderly neighbours.

The only source of heat and light in the igloo was the qulliq. Clothes were hung to dry above the qulliq. If the men had not killed any seals lately and the seal oil had run out, the homes were cold and dark. Families that didn’t have a man to hunt for them suffered even more.

The Inuit always had lice, one kind that lived in their long hair, and another kind that lived in their clothes. Removing them took up a lot of time.