February, Friendships cherished arm to arm and sunshines

I wrote this blog early part of February with an intention of finishing it before the end of the month but things didn’t work out with my timing and heartaches. Sun is shining more each day – like a morning stretch from winter days. One winter while attending undergraduate courses at UAF I didn’t see the sun for a few weeks – walked to classes at morning nights and walked to the dorm at evening nights. In Alaska, we get excited when we gain light day by day after cold winter days. Today, it’s not the sun that melts the snow earlier than normal – climate change is real! Several weeks ago it was raining in southwest Alaska! It’s flooding in one of the Y-K tundra villages in March and spring is not yet here! Be careful out there when you’re traveling. Always let someone know where you go and your estimate return!

I finished a pair of kameksak few weeks ago. The pair were for a naming ceremony in Saint Marys, AK. My Kuskokwim Campus UAF advisor, Bridget Kline placed an order for a fancy Yup’ik women’s traditional kameksak, ciivalek for her granddaughter. Bridget makes beautiful qaspeqs, check out her Facebook page ‘Qaspeqs by Bridget.’ Bridge sewed the top piece of the kameksak matching her unique design. So exciting!

My friend Lolly Carpluk guided me with measurements and rounding the naterkaq just right. Lolly has helped me at my difficult situations at these crafts, Quyana!

I have made the kameksaks naterkaqs shaped like a lower lip sticking up or slightly smiling:

Congratulations to the 2019 Governor’s Arts and Humanities Awards recipients. I was able to watch through 360 North – they are inspiring to witness.

I thank God for many friends, who at times pray for me when I am struggling. Below is a Yup’ik women’s dance headdress for a friend and prayer warrior, Bonnie;

My next assignment was a qaspeq for Ivana. Ivana Ash is a Sugpiaq from Nanwalek attending UAF, majoring in Linguistics. She has a presentation coming up in Hawaii.

On Saturday’s – when busyness isn’t overwhelming, my friends have been over for sewing time! We had successfully cut patterns and sew. Thank you Val Pingayak, Rebecca Wilbur and Rebecca’s aunt for coming over. We will get together for sewing again sometime. I have plenty of leather for baby booties or other projects that were donated by my cousin Sophie and her husband Eric Holland – Quyana!

I am making slow progress with the little squirrel atkuk:

I have been debating, with the hood or no hood? We will see how much squirrels I have left. These furs are leftovers from the qaliq, many of them are front parts of squirrels. I just love the way they turned out.

I am working on the arms and trying to figure out the mechanics of the underarms so they don’t tear from putting the atkuk on. I have it mapped out in my mind. Talking of mapping, my mom sent some pictures I have drawn out in the late 1900s;

This was the time I was taking a class in Indian Law at UAF. I was never bored at that class because the teacher made it interesting and he, he was takarnarqeq. I had a left over note book to scribble. I have completely forgotten about this drawing. At that time, I envisioned myself to someday sew a parka. Rasmuson Foundation helped my drawing a reality, Quyana!

Around the time in 2005 spring semester at UAF, I met a young Yup’ik lady from Tooksok Bay. We first saw each other’s at the airport before we became neighbors. Our Yugnikek connected us – the love of being who we are, nature, subsistence gathering and hunting, traditional art, love of eating fermented food and other Native food, and raising our children with Yup’ik values, with love and healthy habits. My friend Anna, Ingamuralria “Ingam”- you have taught my family healthy foods and habits. You provided positive feedback in raising my girls. You truly made us feel valuable and loved by you. We have ventured out for berry picking, hunted grouse, went fishing, camped out with our children, we cried, laughed, we fell and picked each other up thru prayer. You were humble, loving and forgiving. You have set a positive Yup’ikness to my girls and I – and I am forever grateful for you, I love you my friend.

Please pray for my friend Ingam’s family and many friends. Ingam’s friendship shined in our hearts ♥️🌸

“Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” John‬ ‭20:29‬ ‭KJV‬‬


I am not sure how to interpret naterkaq (the one for the floor?), but I can share what it’s all about. Naterkaq is a product of a bearded seal skin. The hair is removed by aging but I am not sure how or with what. All I know is the seal skin hair and the skin that is black comes off by aging the skin and scraping. I’ll have to share that process at another time.

I am learning about making piluguq/kameksak by trial and lots of error. Naterkaq is for the bottom sole of a boot that is hand made from below the knee to the sole.

Right now I am searching naterkaq to make more piluguq/kameksak. The picture above is few of the piluguq/kameksak I made. It takes lots to measurements and practice to make a good pair. Quyana, to special orders by various people who have entrusted me to make for their loved ones.

I have avoided biting into these skins but I found out that it’s necessary part of the process to soften the seal skin.

There is carving involved too – thinning out the edges of the soles.

I like my daughter’s little uluaq from her Atelli Aiyang (my aunt).

Main fur for this is wolverine that was cut from the leg.

I have several more naterkaq to work with before I run out.

Quyana tailuci 🌸❤️

Alaska is freezing cold, Happy New Year!!!

Cold snap

Art comes even during frozen times – Alaska cold has no mercy and our ancestors prepared in every season.

It’s been a busy December and now January is keeping me more busy – taking orders for mostly piluguq or kameksak.

Preparing for high school graduation

Sewing the seal skin soles are unpredictable when they have been wet. They are easy to crimp when wet. I’ve made mistakes and my mind just can’t except the outcome and so the threads unwind. At times a battle defeated;

Crimping involves tight threads and several tools.

I wasn’t satisfied with this sole, I took apart and soaked it overnight. It flattened to original form.

Water does wonders for these mistakes.

I didn’t thin out the edges enough to make it look sharp and so my trusty little uluaq helped me.

I knew the weathered plank would help me some ways.

There are always adjustments needed to fit a person’s needs. I added some design to widen these kameksak.

I was happy with the result, only because I’ve seen the design in my parent’s matching piluguq.

Special orders comes in many forms and sizes. Relatives from Kwethluk sent their precious crafts to sew in the soles. I was honored to sew them on.

Child piluguq

I hear myself think, “I hope they fit these.”

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a wonderful Happy New Year!

Quyana Agayun!!

Some dust collections for later

Several weeks ago, possibly more than two months ago – I forget when; I decided to try my sewing machine with a foot piece that I haven’t used before.  I tried to use it but I didn’t know how.  I got frustrated and put the sewing machine away without putting the original foot back to the sewing machine.

Multitasking projects keeps me going and not bored. I have random things collected and forgotten but when I finally notice them collected with dust, I think about what I’ll do with them – and then I am off doing something entirely different.  I fight with time and time. I made an issran with hemp that I started over ten years ago and I just need to give it a few more hours and it’s done!  When I first started it, I didn’t use weight to help me weave but adjusted my sitting position and worked on it.  I once saw a Cup’ig lady working on one with beach grass and noticed a rock inside the issran and thought, “how wonderful!”  I asked a few questions and thanked her for a short observation.  Once I got home, I took it out and worked on it with a collected rock my mom found.  Having a weight made weaving go faster and with better sitting position.

I had a Lake Tahoe wood I carved into an ipuun but I have no idea where it went – it may have ended up used for a hot maqi.  I made an uluaq that I started with a help from my mom to design it and my husband to cut the metal.  I brought the uluaq to Akiachak for my uncle to touch it up.  I am not done with it yet, as I need to design the handle to fit my hand.  The items I need help with I usually start with the words, “Do this. I want to make this…”  Fishing for salmon; one person does good job fishing from the river, another creates a unique fish cutting fellet and someone else gets the wood to smoke the fish, and most important there is a cook that feeds all the people involved with the fish.  Most times, I do my own work and I prefer it that way.  But with the uluaq – I wanted my mom, and uncle involved because they know the feel of the tool that helped us for many generations.  I thank my husband for graciously helping with the hard part of cutting the metal.

The sewing machine piece is still missing but I replaced it with a piece that doesn’t come apart.  Lesson learned, always put the original piece that is important back when the other piece is not working out. My mom and I have used the sewing machine with satisfaction since I replaced the piece.

I’ve received a few requests for piluguq and I’ve been working on them. This weekend I’ll focus on sewing the bottom soles with hairless seal.

My next exciting project will be making Piluguq with caribou or moose leg fur.

Keep your feet warm this winter. Piurci!

Winter has arrived

I missed posting of October rains. Snow has lightly fallen and it’s staying on the ground. I have just finished an order of pikuguq that was ordered via my website- I was excited to hear and worked on them right away; I have two other piluguqs to work on, ciuqalek piluguq and a child piluguq;

My mom and I have made several trips to a material store to compose some fantastic qaspet (qaspeq plural);

I am going to precut arctic ground squirrels my mom gave to me to reuse that she had sewed years ago for her simple parka. I’ll be keeping you informed of the progress as time allows.

Winter is here and so keep on being who you are! “Piurci!”

Remember to go vote.

Winter is gaining on us but I have gained more

I don’t have regrets to over work on a short season of wild Alaskan harvesting season. I still have more to go before the snow crashing down. Here are some delightful photos of my adventures, a few artsy projects I have completed and an amazing story;

Hatcher Pass berry picking
Tundra Black Berries
amanita mushroom
My cabbages
Qaspeq UAF
One evening of hunting
Spruce Root Ipuun
Absorbing Hatcher Pass

I wrote a poem and it’s all about the drive of harvesting what Alaska has in a short season of growth.

My great grandma and her ancestors before her lived solely off the land. Her name was Lizzie Lomack. Last weekend I meet her brother’s two of many grandchildren from Dillingham area. His name was Qugcuun. Qugcuun hiked over to Dillingham area from Kuskokwim River over the mountains in pursuit of food. Growing up I heard we had a big extended family up river and over the mountains to the south. It’s amazing how God introduced us in a peculiar way, in our very pursuit of berries we just love to gather.

Nattie and Mary, Qugcuun’s grandchildren

I am not crazy enough not to ignore the nature that nourishes our body.

I see the outdoors a time to renew my relationship with the one who created me – and I just want to simply enjoy his creation. I met my dear relatives and I am just so happy to know we are still gathering like our forefathers.