Activities Inside a Sod House

Inside a Sod House - Illustration

Inside a sod house. Illustration by Autumn Downey (PWNHC)

“Come winter they stayed in their cabins [sod houses]; their women were kept busy with cooking and making furs into beautiful parkas and mukluks and the men were busy fashioning new harpoons, spears, bows, and arrows for the great hunts to come. They enlivened the dark long hours by story telling, or playing games of skill with each other.

On special feast days, or when visitors arrived from some distant settlement ..., all the people would gather in the large feast house where they would exchange gifts of all kinds. There would be much gossiping and story telling and laughing, followed by dancing and singing to the beat of the big drum. This would go on for hours and hours, seemingly without an end. ”

This story was told to Herbert Schwarz in the 1960s, probably by Felix Nuyaviak of Tuktoyaktuk.

Schwarz, Herbert

1970 Elik, and other stories of the MacKenzie Eskimos. Toronto: McLelland and Stuart.

Herbert Schwarz is a medical doctor and author who lived in Tuktoyaktuk in the late 1960s. 'Elik and Other Stories of MacKenzie Eskimos' is a compilation of nine stories and one poem told to him by Inuvialuit elders. The stories are illustrated with drawings by Mona Ohoveluk. It also contains photographs and biographical information for each of the storytellers.

Archaeologists have found a variety of tools that represent these activities in the remains of ancient Inuvialuit sod houses. The artifacts shown here are from Kuukpak, a 600 year old winter village located near the mouth of the Mackenzie River.

To learn more about Kuukpak, go to:

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