November 2008 Artifact of the Month
Artifact: Arctic Yo-Yo
To many people, the harsh environment of the Arctic seems like an impossible place to survive. Yet, the Arctic not only supports life, but it can also sustain an entire population. The Arctic is home to various indigenous tribes like the Yupik, Inuit, and the Aleut.
In the barren landscape, the priority for all native Arctic families is hunting. Hunting allows for the family’s survival in otherwise vacant surroundings. However, although hunting monopolizes much of the adult’s time, the children have plenty of time for playing. In fact, there are numerous toys and games that children from Arctic populations enjoy. The materials for these toys and games coincide with hunting because animal bones, organs, and skins are used to construct them.
The featured artifact is an Arctic Inuit toy given the name Arctic Yo-Yo. It consists of two balls covered with seal fur that are connected with sinew string to a handle of ivory. One of the seal fur covered balls hangs lower than the other. The object is to keep the balls going in opposite directions. To begin, swing one ball in one direction and later toss the other ball in the opposite direction and continue without having the balls strike each other.
Come and see other native children’s toys in our exhibit, Children of Native America.