How Did the Inuit Build Shelter?

The Inuit built permanent and temporary shelters from ice, stone, animal hides and earth. They made the well-known igloos from compacted snow with animal skin door flaps, and they made turf huts from large stones and turf, supporting the roof with wooden beams made of driftwood. The Inuit also made tipi-like tents by wrapping animal hides around wooden poles.

By design, igloos were temporary shelters only lasting a day or two. To make these, the Inuit preferred wind-blown snow as it was more compact. The hole from which the Inuit cut the snow blocks served as a base for the igloo. The Inuit then piled the blocks in a spiral shape, leaning in slightly. They also used ice blocks to make sleeping platforms and covered them with fur.

Turf huts were more permanent housing solutions. The Inuit made turf huts by excavating a hole in the ground and setting up a ring of vertical poles. With the poles tilted inward, they piled sod on top to form a roof. Dug into the earth, the wood and turf house provided warmth and shelter from the elements.

The Inuit sometimes made portable tents from seal skin. To make a tent, they leaned several vertical poles against each other and wrapped an animal skin wall around the exterior of the poles. They placed heavy stones and boulders at the base to secure the skins to the ground.