Toddler Atkuk

I started this child parka several years ago but I didn’t have enough Arctic Ground squirrels to finish the atkuk. Atkuk is the type of fur parka that is a pull over similar to the qaspeq made out of material for causal or professional use. Before I go any further on this subject piece, I had a surprise visit last Saturday from one of the authors of “Edible and Medicinal Plants of Southwest Alaska” – Ann Fienup-Riordan, a Cultural Anthropologist. Another special surprise, I have been blessed to examine and measure an Atkupiaq or an Alngaq sent by Kwethluk relative, Margaret Ayapan. I’ve been encouraged by these opportunities to learn more about the Yup’ik atkut in different forms or styles. I was finally able to restart the “Toddler Atkuk.”

Books and start of a new Women’s Alngaq

Here is a time line of the Toddler Atkuk:

Selected several good Squirrels for the arms and hood
cutting squirrels for the arm and hood
close up of main body
thinking, hood or collar

I initially added a sea otter collar but removed it and so glad I add the hood.

Inside of the Arctic Ground Squirrel Atkuk
Close up of hood and front
Mikelnguum Atkua

The last sewing to add are tassels with beads. Piurci, Tuingunrituq.

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!