April has been fabulous

It’s been a whirlwind of events this April, with weather’s teasing early spring and winter snow that doesn’t want to give up.  Berry pickers understand the need for snow and rain on the ground.  “It’s still April and it will snow when it wants!” is what I have been saying.  April has its ups and down with spring expectations for good weather but its Alaska!  We will see unexpected weather changes that will not make everyone happy.  I have learned from growing up in the Yup’ik world view to see tomorrow as a time that might happen, pisqutekumteggu (plural).

Recent art events gave me confidence with Alaska traditional garments especially the traditional Yup’ik parkas, Qaliq.  Little words of encouragement can go a long way.  At the end of March I submitted the parka I made for the Adaptation – Fairbanks Arts 2019 Spring Juried Exhibition. The Juror was Alvin Amason . See fairbanksart.com. Mr. Amason was my Native Arts instructor back in the 1990s where I carved my first Yup’ik bowl.  At the last minute I made a cloth material parka with left over materials from qaspet and some fur.  It was a one week after work project!  I got it done and rushed over to the Bear Gallery to submit it for the art event.  I thought, I’ll just bring the actual fur parka in case they need it for comparison.  Once I got there, I decided to submit it.  I called the picture here, Iluungaqelriik (teasing girl to girl cousins):


I basically measured each shape same excepted added 1/4 inch for sewing machine space.  The hard parts were the small piece that required angle sewing.  The fun parts were the fast pace sewing that didn’t take me four months.  I had my heart set on the material parka to be picked.  I had no idea, like a fish out of water that the fur parka would be selected:


Having never done this kind of fun event, I was surprised, “what does this mean?!”  The night before the open house, I went to the Bear Gallery to hear Mr. Amason speak about his arts and adventures.  It was absolutely encouraging to hear a passionate Alaska Native artist talk about his work.  I want to share his words about the arts that were submitted;


Leaves are plenty and they are growing indeed!  Never give up what creativity comes from the heart and mind. Another mind blowing event happened to three of my poems, they got published!  Yes, it was another last minute submission, this time to Alaska Women Speak.    The theme was Trajectories.  I sent three poems with the main title, “Letters to the Tundra” – Take me to the Tundra, Magnetic Snow and Duck Soup in Spring.   Over fifteen years ago I had one published with Ice Floe, called “Tuberculosis.”  So far, four have been published.  There is room for growing and the leaves are plenty, even storm clouds seem overwhelming, don’t forget there is sunshine and Alaska has plenty of it.


I have another style I want to make that my mom started for my younger sister, just need to gather all the materials and study the style, Quliitaq.  Quliitaq will have a drum design and made similar to Qaliq but slightly different.  One of the reasons I have been happy about winter not completely being over, I had a fur project that needed to be done.  It was done once snow really started to melt;

Pisqutekumteggu! Piurci!

Summer 2020, of no fish camp

I remember the beginning of summer as a child with no knowledge of any other world, and the excitement of going to fish camp with just my parents and siblings. Yesterday is a memory, today is now and tomorrow is a new day! My sisters and friends have helped in my journeys in gathering food and being my listening ears when I have something to say-Quyana! They are also my food critics and they make camping food tasty with laughter. I’ve put off publishing this piece since last summer because it seemed impossible to make it to today at that time – it was too hard to go to my home and fish camp to prevent illness to my family or anyone! Fish camp is my rejuvenation place every summer. I sure hope I will cut Kuskokwim salmon and help with smoking them in the smoke house!

Last summer, I found a place guided by friends a place with the wind and sun, an emotional place we all feel with family, it was my first ocean salmon drying place. While the salmon dried there was without the crowd of children running around. I was missing the company and smell of home cooked food. I missed the noise of children enjoying sunshine and loud swimming in the river and the conversations with family with the company of delicious and delicate food. I missed the daily hot saunas with my sisters and mom. This temporary scene helped me to overcome the loneliness, even the sea gulls new my feelings when I told them, “shut up!” several ten times, and ten more times. They finally left me and drying salmon alone.

When I typed these words in the dark and the only light comes from your computer monitor – memories rolling in – the dark was unknown and the light was what was in front of me – the monitor that shines light to my past. The fish camp where brothers and nephews bring fish to and the women cut to perfection for our winter bellies! While I type these words, I see my hands what once cut at least hundreds of salmon for winter food…no slime and cold water to refresh from the heat of the sun in June and July – before the flies lay their eggs of nuisance! All we need is dried fish smoked to fulfill our duty in this modern world – everyone desire good quality food! Yupiit know quality when salmon is cut and smoked to preservation – our goal is to survive! I am merely telling what is known, remembered and learned! Salmons are our essentials in Alaska!