Q. Why do igloos look like they do? Do they still use them? What can you tell me about the way the Eskimos lived in igloos? -Gayle
A. Actually, Gayle, the Eskimos never really ‘lived’ in Igloos as in day to day living, but don’t feel badly because that is a very common misconception. I thought that myself for several years, before we came to Alaska.
The igloo is a snow block structure which can be quickly built for a temporary trail shelter for arctic Alaskan and Canadian Eskimos. So they were built for shelter when hunting trips carried over for more than one day.
To build one, you start from the bottom and lay blocks of snow in a spiral and then continue up, setting each succeeding spiral a bit inset from the preceding, so that as you go up you create a rounded dome shape. A vent hole is left in the top for ventilation. A tunnel of snow makes the entry. Believe it or not, but something as simple as a candle will, along with body heat, keep the interior comfortable. When the kids were young, we built one at Kenny Lake, and found that to be true.
What the indigenous peoples usually have for day to day living is
a simple structure of sod, sometimes built in a quonset shape, with either whale ribs or wood holding up a roof of insulating sod. While there aren’t any trees way up north to use for building, you still see homes built with wood because the natives are very inventive and frugal in using any scrap of wood which comes their way – such as packing crates and wooden pallets from goods flown in. Sometimes the tide will even bring in usuable wood.
I think you have picked my brain clean for this time! Take care, Bonnie J.