Niġiñiutit: Traditional Nunamiut Household Cooking Utensils

Ladles and spoons

Four basic types of ladles and spoons were traditionally used by the Nunamiut:  the qayuuttaq, the qayuuttauraq, the aluutaaq and the aluutaaqpak.

Old people preferred spoons made of the horn of the Dall sheep, imniam nagrua, a material which when patiently and skillfully worked yielded a graceful, translucent amber colored dipper with a deep, broadly rounded bowl and a long, upward curving handle.  Making a sheep horn spoon was a long process of cutting, thinning and trimming away part of the hollow base, then boiling it in water for hours to soften the horn so the bowl could be worked down over a wooden mold. In the process the horn was turned inside out and the curve of the remaining part of the horn was reversed. After several more hours of carving, thinning and smoothing the ladle was finished.

The qayuuttaq was used to serve soups and broths, and to skim the grease when making puiñiq; but because it absorbed food flavors, families usually owned several, each for use with a particular food.  One elder in particular was emphatic in stating that the meat and broth of the ground squirrel would never be served with the same implements used with caribou.  Perhaps some people did not like the potential clash of flavors, though there may be some other, underlying spiritual reasons.  In some instances it might be due to a conflicted or adversarial relationship between the spiritual powers of the two animals.  In other instances it may be traced to a dietary restriction, or agliġnaq.

In contrast to the graceful lines of the horn ladle the sprucewood version is heavier. Except for the interior of the bowl and the handle butt, the ladle is colored with a decorative and protective coat of ivisaaq, or red ochre.

The qayuuttauraq, literally "the little qayuuttaq" was sometimes also known by the more specific and descriptive name of imigun, meaning an "implement for water."  It was made to ladle drinking or cooking water out of the qattaq, the household water pail.

The example here, from the Murdoch collection, is 11 ¾ inches long. Near the tip of the handle is a 1¼ inch peg used to hang the ladle on the bucket rim.  These ladles could be made of sheep horn or sprucewood.

The aluutaaq was a small, personal spoon. Each person had his or her own and carried it at all times suspended from a belt by a leather thong.  These spoons were intended strictly for eating soups and broths, - and it was stressed – never for dipping into the water pail.  Traditionally the preferred material for this spoon was the horn of the two-year old Dall mountain sheep known as a tamutaiļaq, which had horns distinguished by black tips.

The aluutaqpak was another useful household implement, shown here. This was made from mastodon ivory.