At the Winter Sea Ice Camp
From the Netsilik Eskimo series
Directed by Quentin Brown
At the Winter Sea Ice Camp Part 1
At the Winter Sea Ice Camp Part 2
At the Winter Sea Ice Camp Part 3
At the Winter Sea Ice Camp Part 4
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About At the Winter Sea Ice Camp
Part 1, color, 36 minutes - watch a preview
In late winter when the cold is severe, the people and dogs are glad to stop their trek and make camp. In the blue dusk the men probe the snow and then cut building blocks while the women shovel a site. Soon all are under cover, and in the wavering light of the stone lamp they sleep, their breath rising coldly. In the light of day the men test and refurbish their spears, harness dogs to the sled and strike out on the sea ice. Each man, with a dog or two, explores the white waste, seeking scent of a seal's breathing hole. When a dog noses the snow, the man probes for the hole and, when he finds it, suspends a single looped hair to signal when the seal rises to breathe. Then he waits, motionless, to make his strike. He kills, and the others gather to taste the warm liver of his catch. Then, as night comes, the vigil goes on.
Part 2, color, 36 minutes - watch a preview
In the morning the women spread the furs over the igloos to air. The children play, striking a ball of fur with a bone bat. The men wait patiently for sign of seals and the women play with the babies, sew, repair the igloos, nurse a child; an old woman rocks as she chants. A woman shows an older girl how to shape and cut fur for clothing. Then the seals begin to arrive, towed by the hunters. The women dress the seals, eating between times, passing the knife along as needed. The men come in with their catch, and soon all are indoors.
Part 3, color, 30 minutes - watch a preview
Work begins on a big community igloo, and all share in the building of it; one cuts, one carries, one builds, and so on. The children imitate. Women pile snow on the igloo, tossing it up from shovel to shovel. Ice sheets are installed for light. The men return to their sealing and the women to duties or play. In the large living space of the igloo, activities are easy to see. An infant uses the sharp ulu as confidently as any adult to cut bite-size meat or fish. A game of blind man's bluff begins between women and children. This is followed by spear-the-peg, where a toggle-sized peg is suspended and players with baton-sized spears attempt to strike the hole in the peg as it turns. Now fish is sliced and eaten. In the blue dusk, the snow smokes over the ice, and the men come home. A man drags in a seal and a woman sucks on ice and then drips the water into the mouth of a dead animal. The flesh is then divided, with each woman carrying away some in sealskin bags. The dogs enter to clean up, and the men then try their games of strength.
Part 4, color, 35 minutes - watch a preview
A bitter wind blows and the dogs huddle in the snow. In the igloo, the children scratch in the rime on the ice window. A man takes out his tool-pouch and drills the stone trough he is making, using bow and spindle. Children play with a pup; a man coils his whip and warms his hands at the lamp. A naked infant toddles by. A woman presses blubber in the lamp to free the oil, and a child carries the sharpening rock to the man who saws at his stonework. Outside, the boys stand on their heads and roll in drifting snow. A woman has a speck of rock in her eye and the carver removes it by opening wide the eye and applying his lips. The men gamble at the spear-the-peg game. The women try another spear-the-peg game. Some men are still at the seal hunt, beards rimed by the cold. Day ends with a drum performance to which the women sing. The next day the big igloo is deserted and the people are again trekking over the broad expanse of the sea ice.
About the Netsilik Eskimo series
These films reveal the live reality of traditional Eskimo life before the European acculturation. The Netsilik Eskimos of the Pelly Bay region in the Canadian Arctic had long lived apart from other people and had depended entirely on the land and their own ingenuity to sustain life through the rigors of the Arctic year. The filming was done during the summers of 1963 and 1964 and in the late winter of 1965 under the ethnographic direction of Dr. Asen Balikci of the University of Montréal, assisted by Guy Mary-Rousseliere, O.M.I., both anthropologists of wide Arctic experience. Quentin Brown was Producer-Director, and Kevin Smith the Executive Producer for the series.
other films in the Netsilik Eskimo series:
At the Caribou Crossing Place
At the Autumn River Camp
Jigging for Lake Trout
At the Spring Sea Ice Camp
Group Hunting on the Spring Ice
Stalking Seal on the Spring Ice
Building a Kayak
Fishing at the Stone Weir