Yidįįłtoo: Face tattoo as identity
Why are traditional tattoos so important in indigenous peoples
01 July 2022
The Yidįįłtoo is a technique used more than 10,000 years ago by the native tribes of Alaska and other parts of the world.
These are face tattoos that are distinguished mainly by showing lines on the chin, as well as in other parts of the face, and they represent a rite of maturity or achievements.
In recent years, the women of the north have promoted a strong work to vindicate these practices and also their roots and ancestors.
The Inuit community
The tribes or peoples of the Arctic area, mistakenly known as Eskimos, are calledInuit. The word Inuit means "the people" and its singular Inuk means "man" or "person". These ancient peoples were located in the Arctic area and they led a seasonal nomadic life, as long as the weather conditions allowed it.
Spring was the best season of the year for hunting. The basis of their society was family and solidarity, and given the harsh living conditions, both cooperation and building strong bonds were very important.
The tasks were divided by sex, while the women devoted their time to tanning the skins, making clothes and taking care of the children, men devoited their time to hunting and carving and crafting.
To overcome conflicts or cope with painful situations, they improvised songs and rarely applied physical violence. In fact, curiously, the word "war" does not exist in their language.
These peoples are considered very rich in culture and the tradition of tattooing their faces was very common, especially among women, who associated these marks with protection from the divine with a strong religious and spiritual component.
The first techniques
There are many different techniques that date back to the first civilizations that tattooed their bodies. Among them, the sewing technique was the most used by theInuit peoples. Normally, these tattoos were made by the old women and the technique consisted of using ivory or whale bone needles with a thread blackened in soot or dipped in oil, which was applied under the skin to make patterns.
This type of tattoo is also called suture, and it is probably the most painful and aggressive technique for the skin. Over time, other less painful and simpler techniques began to be used, such ass tick-and-poke (also known as hand poke), which uses a single needle and is performed manually, penetrating only the first layer of the skin until it heals, and then the tattoo remains permanent.
Today artists like Jody Potts-Joseph, Sarah Ayaqi Whalen, Marjorie Tahbone or Holly Mititquq Nordlum, among many others, are reviving this Inuit practice, for examplethe renowned model Quanna Chasinghorse, Jody Potts-Joseph’s daughter, who participated and introduced these tattoos in fashion campaigns for Gucci and starredon the cover of Vogue.
Source: Media Allure
The importance of tradition
This tradition it is not just a tattoo technique since it carries the roots and ancestral customs of these peoples, almost forgotten due to colonization. Today, the womenand men of Alaska or the Inuit descendants are trying to revive these tattoos in orderto recover their identity and their culture that was made invisible and denied for so long.
Furthermore, this lets other non-native people know about these communities andestablish connections. For each woman, the marks have a very different meaning,and it is important to share these experiences as a way of vindication and resilienceand in a respectful way towards these peoples.
As we have developed, it is essential to keep the communities alive and be able to know and appreciate them through their traditions. Tattoos represent a very particular way of life and a special view of the world, both personally and collectively.
There are countless meanings and choices by which a person decides to wear such distinctive marks on their body.
What do you think? Would you get one of these tattoos?