Inuit Ball Games

Sorosilutoo Lacrosse Sketch

Many ball games from elsewhere have been adapted by the Inuit. The drawing at the left is of an Inuit ball game. It is a sketch by Sorosilutoo and is titled Ajutatut. This Inuit artist is from Cape Dorset on Baffin Island (Government of Canada: Ministry of Indian & Northern Affairs, 1975, #QS-8050-000-BB-A1). The sketch appears to illustrate a modification of what might be the game of Lacrosse, played by aboriginal peoples south of the Arctic Circle

Kingwatsiak ball game sketch

Perhaps because of the lack of wood in the Arctic, Inuit players hold baskets without wooden handles - baskets in which to catch the ball. A modification that reminds one of the game of Jai Alai. In 1993, Iyola Kingwatsiak (also from Cape Dorset) created this related stonecut and called it Tossing Game. Tossing the ball is exactly what happens in the game of Jai Alai. The original stonecut is 51" x 79" in shades of black and orange.

Napachee ball game sketch

The stone cut at the left is by Napachee, the daughter of Pitseolak who is also a noted Inuit artist from the Cape Dorset Cooperative. It is a similar type of group ball game. Created in 1967, the print is in shades of green, blue, and black.

Pitseolak, in Pictures Out of My Life, Oxford University Press, 1971, has this to say about the ball game:

This is how we played the game - we threw a ball underhand and tried to catch it in a sealskin racket. The racket was called an Autuk. We made the ball from caribou skin and stuffed it with something. We used to play this game a lot, even in the winter. It was a good game, but they don't play it now; they are following the world.

Qinnuayuak football sketchThis stonecut by Tikitu Qinnuayuak (Cape Dorset) printed in 1990 is titled Aqijut and is originally 28" x 62" and is in blue, brown, and red. Many other ball games, for partners or as multi-player circle games, are played by the Inuit. On Holman Island as elsewhere, the Inuit have long played a type of football known as Akraurak or Aqijut which is mentioned in some of their myths. (F.H. Eger, Eskimo Inuit Games, Vancouver: X-Press, 3 edition, page 58).

The football is made of hide, stuffed with hair, moss, feathers, wood shavings, or whalebones. Two lines of players face each other, some distance apart. The ball is kicked between the lines until it passes through one line of players. Then all players rush to kick the ball into their opponent's goal.

Inuit caribou ball

The photograph at the left is of an Inuit ball purchased by the Museum from an Inuit cooperative in 1979. The covering is made of caribou hide, filled with seeds, and sewn with sinew. It is a flattened, round disc about 10cm in diameter and 1cm thick in the center.

Last update June 17, 2010