Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 548

548 Arctic Yearbook 2014 Historical Historically, and with the advent of the commercial sealing industry in the late 18th century, it was primarily the skin and the fat of the seal which were used for making clothes for the domestic and European markets as well as for rendering fat into oil as a cheap alternative to whale oil (Ryan 1994: 70). Here lies the core of the tradition of the sealing industry in Newfoundland – the commercial exploitation of the seal – around which subsistence elements have developed. Thus, it is not the resource per se recognized in the tradition, but the captains, vessels and events that have shaped the history and societal construct of Newfoundland’s villages and cities – best reflected in the numerous songs and poems surrounding the hunt and hunters (Ryan & Small 1978) and in the erection of the Sealers’ Memorial ‘Home from the Sea’ in Elliston, Newfoundland, in 2014. But even within the large-scale seal hunts of the 19th century, sealers and their families benefitted from the hunt on a non-monetary basis when seal flippers and carcasses were brought home as an additional food source (Ryan 1994: 239, 240). Sealing knife in wooden sheath. Photo: Nikolas Sellheim, 2013. But apart from the larger scale utilization, also small-scale skills developed based on the seal hunt. One, only briefly documented skill, was wooden sheath-making for sealing knives when the men were on the ice skinning the animals and which were “almost works of art” (Wright, 1984: 43). This skill, while still prevalent in the 1980s, has largely disappeared from the hunt since seals are now skinned on the boat where the knives are no longer the personal property of the individual sealers. While sheath-making was a spin-off skill of the hunt, Newfoundland’s northern tip at the Street of Belle Isle was home to the emergence of a skill relating to seal skins. Since the region’s settlement in the early 1800s a long-standing tradition of making resilient seal skin boots had developed which is believed to have merged skills from Inuit and First Nations with European boot making (Bock 1991: 19). Permanent settlement was significantly supported by the sale of seal skin boots when the funds generated through the trade were used to establish an Anglican Mission in Flower’s Cove in 1849 and ultimately to build the St. Barnabas Anglican Church in 1920, which is also referred to as the ‘Skin Boot Church’ (ibid.: 47-54). Current The current utilization of seal products is manifold and begins with the landing of the seal hunting vessel in its home harbour. Prior to the hunt, villagers ask the hunters to save specific seal parts, such as whole carcases, ribs, hearts or flippers for them. Upon arrival of the vessel Sellheim