Home Tanning Squirrels

There is no better squirrels than the Kuskokwim Mountain squirrels- at least so far by my experience.  These are thick and huge!  I can’t wait to sew them together!

Raw squirrels

Any day after my regular 8 hour day – I start by soaking Arctic Ground squirrels, 6 at a time- cut off the hind feet with a scissor then rub the soap on the skin side until soft. Inside out the fur side and squeeze out liquid, dry with a towel and hang to dry.

Drying squirrels

After the fur side is dry, I stretch them with my hands and fingers and slide them carefully to a board for drying the leather part. I use baby powder to help with the drying and also to get rid of the stickiness of the leather. A few times, I accidentally pulled the heads off. I try not to ruin any part of the fur, even the head part that can be used for a hood project some day. The top heads are used for hood in other Inupiaq and Yu’pik traditional parkas – I am still trying to distinguish the styles.

drying leather side squirels

Drying squirrels take time. Wait for the leather side to dry. If they are too drying they will be hard to remove from the board and might tear if you are not careful. Since I have been softening them, I have developed smooth hands but tired fingers. Stretching the leather and your tired and sore hands are important. For the last few weeks – this part has been my therapy and focus. By the end of this process I should have a number of how many there are and how many parkas these individual squirrels will make.

Tuingunrituq piurci!

Remember to protect your families, stay home!

Author: Nasek'taq

Merna Wharton “Nasek’taq” is Yup'ik from Akiacuaq (Akiachak) lives in Anchorage Alaska. Merna is an Alaska Native artist, poet, traditional and contemporary seamstress, carver, gatherer of greens and berries, and loves the outdoors of Alaska! Merna enjoys finding art in natural elements and shares her experiences through her website, nasektaq.com. Merna crafts to preserve her culture and art and shares her worldview from a remote village Yup’ik girl’s perspective with a glimpse of life in Alaska in her writing and poems. More information about her art can be found at https://www.rasmuson.org/49writers/artist-profile/merna-wharton/.