The Eskimo are the native inhabitants of the seacoasts of the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America and the northeastern tip of Siberia. The word Eskimo, meaning "eaters of raw meat" was used by the Algonquin Indians of eastern Canada who wore animal-skin clothing and were skillful hunters. The name was most often used by European explorers and now is generally used, even by Eskimo. Their own term for themselves is Inuit, which means the "real people."
The Eskimo technique of tattooing ink into the skin is unusual. They use ivory or bone needles. Thread that is blackened with soot is pulled under the skin forming patterns. Generally, these tattoo artists were respected elderly women.
Eskimo designs generally fall into two groups: Women usually have chin marks, which denote puberty and availability to be married. Men's tattoos relate to hunting or war victories. Special tattoos were reserved for killing a man or a whale: 2 horizontal lines across the face for killing a man, and a single line from the corners of the mouth to the ear lobes for killing a whale.
Tattoo Archive © 1998