Yup'ik/Alaska Native contemporary and traditional arts and crafts
Yup'ik woman from Akiacuaq (Akiachak) Alaska, living in Fairbanks Alaska. Alaska Native Artist. I am a poet! I am a wife of an amazing man from South Lake Tahoe, CA and a mother of two children. I enjoy the outdoors in Alaska. I made a Yup'ik woman's traditional fancy parka, "Qaliq." I am in a process of working on a child size parka and other Yup'ik traditional clothing. I share wonderful things about Alaska, the arts and the outdoors.
I had the most fun adventure with this side project. Every piece is a process; hunting, gathering, tanning, dyeing with alder, cutting the materials, measuring by sight and fingures, and sewing.
I started off with trimming the caribou hair with my husband’s hair clippers and with my well used scissors.
Materials; swan feet leather, caribou hair and trimmed caribou hide, land otter hide, wolf hide, my own experiment dyed seal skin and some collected beads. I didn’t add any pink yet – I thought I would but I want to keep the Yupik traditional colors with this art piece.
These three pieces are meant to be together as one piece.
I still have to add squirrels and possibly two strips of trimmed caribou hide and a stick of alder hung by caribou sinew. I will post the final decorative art piece by tomorrow evening or Friday. ❤️
Here is a glimps of my mini learning project to see and experience the way parkas were made with caribou hide and swan leather feet and a modern day twist for a good cause (hint 🌸). Stay tune for finish product.
In replace of caribou hide – I am using cowhide for the shield and in replace of caribou hair some use cotton, in a minute you will see what I mean and by the end of this story hope you’re not squinting 😆.
I have been challenged to deal with loose hair that has to be white like cotton! I disliked (past) dealing with the loose in all directions fur – hair more like a bad hair day with a deadline.
The other day, I seen a row of white folders neatly set with black divider in between each folder and I said out loud, “I like the set up.” Eeee I said it out loud. What? I realized it have been sewing pieces of black and white. My first line of sewing was like a nightmare, hair sticking up! Fluffy! I thought I should be creative! I doubted myself and asked my friends online and they all agreed that it wasn’t it. I am so glad I get feed back!!!
I started all over! I just got to get through this sloppy stage hand sewing, and My uncle said, ‘sloppy is good.’ My black thread wasn’t cooperating and the caribou hair didn’t care. I thought of wax, need something sticky or tape or just wrap it and sew it, oh lick it! I put the caribou hairs in my mouth and smoothed it out – tasted salty and spat out a few strands – it worked! Just like when your child’s hair on picture day, smooth it out.
Ok, I did my first line like it’s supposed to be done, not exactly! It was like a bang cut uneven! My friends said keep trying. My mom said, you’ll get better and you’ll enjoy it soon. A friend said, trial and error makes excellent learning. I have had nothing but positive comments and they all inspire me! I get frustrated and complain like an out of control bad hair day person!
When I contemplate while sewing and writing about my experiences – I thank God that he ordered rest! Resting is important and this summer I had a hard time resting and it is rolling over to fall. Lately, I sit and sew to rest.
I want to thank Mr. & Mrs. Hickman owners of Alaska Precision Taxidermy for donating caribou mane for my project. I was surprised with the generousity of shareing, as I was looking all over Fairbanks for caribou hair. Quyana!
As soon as I received the caribou hair, I went straight to sewing. Out of frustration I sewed cotton string on the second try – to my surprise the caribou hair and cotton look so much alike. I am still working on the lines as you will soon see the process and measurements. After the squires will be the shield and then the shoulder straps. I am calling it straps as it rests on the shoulders to the back and front – almost like suspenders. By the time I am done with this area I should have bifocals to help me see better.
Check back again for the shields, straps, otter and wolf parts to the Qaliq. Piurci!
I wanted the experience of trapping Arctic Ground Squirrels AKA Parky Squirrels and in Central Yup’ik, “Qanganat”
My family and I met up with Harry and Sharon Alexie and their son and daughter on the Denali Highway. There, I also met Sargent Guy and his three year old son George. I bought 58 squirrels from Sargent to began my parka project. I had a most awesome learning experience from them in just short two hours or so – because they had to catch their flight back to Bethel the very next day, they gave me a crash course of trapping squirrels! They also lent me their traps – at least a dozen traps, with my lack of experience I only bought 6.
Trapping starts early part of August until hibernation or spring when they are coming out of hibernation.
My heart was bounding and my hands were shaking – not like any class I have taken – this was learning from observation and actually almost snapping my fingers into the trap!
Their children gave me courage from watching them skinning the squirrels – I stood there proud in my heart how fantastic work their doing! Little George made me proud too for his patience as he waited and played amongst the busy hands preparing the squirrels for parties and celebrations. Kwethluk, my mothers childhood home is known to have big feasts and celebrations and where squirrels are a delicacy. As a young child I believe I may have tried but I really don’t know – I must have smelled it in the air while it was cooking and passed up on the opportunity. I will have that taste when we have a celebration with family and friends!!! I still need to go trapping for the third time before they fully hibernate so I have enough to share. At this time we caught a total of three.
I have never worked so hard for little critters other than salmon!! You know what – just like fish you get a connection with squirrels – it was our ancestors way of life for food and warmth. I am looking forward to more trapping with my family. My girls brings me joy and encouragement as they are learning with me – It’s neat and challenging! We also saw caribou, flowers and black berries on this trip. Thanks to my husband Matt Wharton who does not give up on me 🌸.
I might be dragging few of my friends to come with me before the squirrels run off to sleep – be ready friends!
Most importantly, thanks to my Lord Jesus who blesses me with these experiences – I prayed and he answered. He knows my ❤️!
When I think of the shield on the parka, I think of God’s words, “You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” Palm 119: 114. I found that the word, ‘shield’ is used in the Bible many times.
I am encouraged today – even when I am not walking in full armor in my daily life, Jesus is my refuge.
Today, I cut up the patterns for the shield but slightly changed the height to avoid the black spots of the calf skin. In the old days they used caribou as the shield. Perhaps, next time with the child parka I’ll use caribou skin as a shield.
I am searching for caribou hide for the hair strips. I am thinking of using caribou or moose sinew to sew the strips on. I am getting more excited about sewing them together. It’s easier than I thought. If you already hand sew – this too is possible!!! I encourage you as the Word of God encourages me – take on a challenge and learn with me. You can contact me for ideas – I like sharing what I am learning.
The swan feets are both dry. They turned out great! I think I may have to find caribou by way of hunting for them.
Talking about hunting, I actually went trapping for Arctic Ground Squirrels and caught three 🙂. Thanks to Harry and Sharon Alexie and their children and Sargent and his son George Guy for showing me the ropes of squirrel trapping – I learn a wealth of knowledge within an hour or two to trap and the proper way of taking care of the meat. Quyana cakneq!!! It took a lot of courage for me to step into the trapping experience- it’s harrowing to do it alone for the first time – thank God my daughter was with me. Stay tune for more stories with pictures!
Have a wonderful week! Piurci!
I skinned and pulls apart one side of a Swan feet for strips on the shield and the black fish tail. I used small uluaq (women’s sewing knife) and believe it or not my teeth to pull apart the skin from the joint.
Next step is do the other swan feet. After I dry them – I will work on the shield and work around the shield, sewing the squirrels. I need to find caribou hair for decorative strips that goes with the swan feet. I have reddish brownish leather for the other strips for the shield.
While I was at Fish camp – I peeled bark off from an alder wood my brother cut down for smoking the salmon. When I returned to Fairbanks- after talking with Lolly Carpluk and her mom – I was able to get instructions from Lolly and her mom to do my first experiment of natural dyes.
By their instructions: I mixed together alder bark, salt and warm water. I soaked the hairless seal skin into the mix for few days. I checked it a few times until the desired red color was present. I will experiment with soaking it in white vinegar first and try the alder dye again or visaversa.