How to Build an Igloo

How to Build an Igloo

| 10 min

This classic short film shows how to make an igloo using only snow and a knife. Two Inuit men in Canada’s Far North choose the site, cut and place snow blocks and create an entrance--a shelter completed in one-and-a-half hours. The commentary explains that the interior warmth and the wind outside cement the snow blocks firmly together. As the short winter day darkens, the two builders move their caribou sleeping robes and extra skins indoors, confident of spending a snug night in the midst of the Arctic cold!

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  • director
    Douglas Wilkinson
  • commentary
    Douglas Wilkinson
  • producer
    Michael Spencer
  • camera
    Chester C. Kissick
  • editing
    Neil Harris

How to Build an Igloo
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  • Lavengro1954

    A fascinating film, spoiled by the grovelling, imbecilic apology for the historical term 'Eskimo' (French: 'Esquimau'). Shameful. It was never used as a term of racial abuse.

    Lavengro1954, 17 Apr 2022
  • CharlesDunbar

    As a child growing up in the NWT we watched this and other films like it. It gave me profound respect for the Inuit people's and their survival skills to brave the long arctic winters. They were cleaver on so many ways. Their fur clothes were elaborate. Their snow goggles to prevent snow blindness. The ingenious tip of the harpoon to catch the seal. The ulu knives. The inuk shuk stone figures which by some were used to trick the muskox or caribou to fall into the hunter's trap by beliVing they were fleeing the hunters and not being led to the waiting hunting party. What a lot of people fail to realize is that if they had cooked all their food they would have died of malnutrition. For the lack of vegetables in their diet they needed the fresh raw meats in order to get their vitamins. Heat, as most people know denature vitamins. Eskimo, the white man's name for the inuit, meant raw meat eater or so I was taught. We even had the opportunity to learn inuktitut the symbols created to articulate the Inuit languages. Regretably we moved before I had the honour of learning that. Very glad the NFBC made and kept these movies as for the most part knowledge of these old ways have disappeared. Many thanks. Looking forward to watching some more.

    CharlesDunbar, 17 Dec 2016

    Really interesting, have been researching this since seeing a documentary on Discovery about it, To fair seems like a skill in itself and I could imagine it would take more than the first attempt! Excellent article thanks John

    JAYJAY, 15 Feb 2014
  • Rhodora

    Show it to your classroom. Explain to them that when the film was made (in 1949) we didn't know any better. I just showed it to my 4-year old (after building a snow fort in the back yard) and she loved it.

    Rhodora, 10 Feb 2013
  • Lynne13

    Having worked with the Inuit (Eskimo as the narrator calls them in this film) for several years I came to understand that the term "Eskimo" is extremely offensive to them. I enjoyed the film but could never show it in my classroom (I'm a teacher) because of the terminology. Perhaps this is what the fuss is all about???

    Lynne13, 12 Jan 2013
  • Nathaniel

    I once built an igloo with a friend here in the UK, we only used a large kitchen knife and a <a href="">sledge</a> to move the snow to where we were building, it was great fun :)

    Nathaniel, 23 Nov 2012
  • tolora

    Love these old films - reminds me of my school days. We were always excited as a classroom when the teacher would wheel in the film projector. As far as this film being unsuitable for a Christian audience . . . perhaps it has something to do with the way the narrator says 'fox skin'. I giggled a little when he said it, and then it hit me that perhaps that is what the highly sensitive borrower was referring too. Can't think of what else it would be.

    tolora, 1 Mar 2012
  • saxaphonium

    It's a shame when people don't have the humanity to recognize the value of other ways of life, and in this case, justify the negative perception of Christians. As a counterpoint, as a Christian myself, I have a tremendous interest in and respect for the traditional skills and beliefs kept alive by indigenous peoples, and for organizations like the NFBC for archiving so many valuable videos.

    saxaphonium, 13 Oct 2010
  • mbphillips

    When I was a young officer at the Canadian Embassy in Addis Ababa, back in 1966, we had a lending library of NFB films including this one. We once received this film back from a borrower with the comment "not suitable for a Christian audience". To this day I don't know what the problem was.

    mbphillips, 22 Jan 2010

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How to Build an Igloo, Douglas Wilkinson, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

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