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Home >> From 1867 to Present Day >> Identity, Culture & Communities >> Artifacts

Daily life and challenges for the various groups involved in the fur trade.

Image 1 | Image 2 | Image 3 | Image 4 | Image 5 | Image 6
Creator: Inuit; Eastern Arctic; Inukjuak (Port Harrison), Quebec
Year made: Late 19th Century - Early 20th Century
Dimensions: 12.3 cm long, 12.2 cm wide; 6.3 cm long, 10 cm wide
Location: The Manitoba Museum; Artifacts HBC 1555C & 61-46
Copyright Holder: The Manitoba Museum

(M3) Ulu Knives

These Inuit knives are known as ulus. The first example has a crescent-shaped slate stone blade. The blade is attached to the handle with heavy cord made from animal sinew. The handle is made from a carved piece of antler.

The second example has a crescent-shaped blade made from metal obtained through trade. As you can see in the last image, the ivory handle is carved with motifs of fish and lines.

Other Related Material
Read more about cooking or preparing hides - enter 'cooking' or 'hides' in the search box to your left.

Check the Beaver Index - e.g., Lucy of Povungnetuk, by Malvina Bolus, Summer 1959.

Did You Know?
Ulu blades were originally made from local stone or, in some areas, from local copper metal. With the introduction of metal goods by European whalers and fur traders, metal was more frequently used to make the blades.

The ulu was a woman’s cutting tool. It is shaped so that the force of cutting is centred more over the middle of the blade than is the case with a regular handled knife. This quality makes it easier to cut through hard objects.

The ulu was used for removing the hair and flesh from animal hides, slitting animal sinews to make thread and cords, slicing meat, making patterns for clothing and for cutting tobacco.

Ulus were produced in a variety of sizes depending on the intended use. Smaller ulus were used for cutting sinew thread for sewing, while those with larger blades served more general purposes. The styles varied from region to region.

This highly valued woman’s knife is still used in some communities and has become one of the symbols of traditional arctic culture.