Reviving the art of making Iñupiat Mukluks | INDIE ALASKA

Reviving the art of making Iñupiat Mukluks | INDIE ALASKA

Back when the missionaries came
converting everyone to Christianity everyone attended… started attending
school, you know, to learn Western Western culture and you know I’ve seen a big shift in that though. There’s so many people that are immersing themselves
back into their culture trying to relearn things that were lost. What I do
is I take custom orders for mukluks. These are my cold-weather mukluks. I wore
these in 30 below. I sewed all the fur together by hand. Trimmed with
caribou fur on the inside. I used moose hide trimming right here. They are
super comfortable you can just tell by all the crinkles in them. The skins are a lot to work on. First, you
have to harvest the seal. Then you have to flesh the seal, clean the seal. Stretch dry…
you seen my skins out there. There’s two of them. So that’s the first process of
the sole. This here is probably the next step. Where I’m patterning the mukluk,
sewing those together. My grandma Lena Sours, great-grandma. She did a lot of sewing for people. Oh, right here! These are the mukluks that she made. Well I
started sewing when I was a little girl off and on with my mom. After I had my
grandson, that’s when something clicked and I knew I had to sew for him. There was a family of people that were
coming back from Kotzebue after a race; and there was some open water. And there
was an auntie a father and mother and their niece that
passed away. Yeah. And the little girl she was like
our daughter. She came to our house pretty much all the time…slept over… her
and my daughter were best friends. I made her a pair of mukluks. Her mom
requested a pair of mukluks for her burial and they turned out really beautiful and they fit her just right. I’ve done that for quite a few people. It’s our culture to share. Share and pass
on, you know? It will keep the culture alive and keep it thriving. And your
first pair might not be perfect. I started teaching because I wanted people
to learn also you know? Long ago everyone passed on their different styles their
different ways of doing things from mother to daughter and somewhere along
the way that that gap was, you know, broken to where families were not doing
that anymore. So I just want everybody to get back
into their culture and learn more about it and keep it alive. So that’s most
important. So I try to do everything as traditionally as possible. I did a custom
pattern on their sole and we went ahead and traced their patterns on the ugruk, the
bearded seal hard bottom. So right now they are removing the hair. You work with
the sand, is what we’ve been using, it really helps kind of quickly get the
hair off. So I’m going to make a complete pair of mukluks eventually with seal
skin and the hard bottoms. Once the hair is removed we’re gonna
prep them and get them ready to crimp. Well a long time ago before we got these
tools, the way they made the soles is they chewed them. They chewed the crimps
with their teeth. That’s why they’re so perfect! You see how tiny they are? I’ve been sewing since I was very young
my mother would sew projects with me and and she passed actually about four years
ago and I have a pair of her mukluks and I always looked at them and I always
thought that this was unattainable for me but to be able to be given this
opportunity with Mary, it’s just… it’s a real honor to be a part of. That’s so
fun. It’s so exciting to see their faces light up when they learn
something new and they’re just so in awe that they’re doing it and I’m like, you
know, that’s what it’s all about. You know, I the way I look at it
the more people that are doing it the better… better chances of keeping our
traditions and our cultures alive. PBS Digital Studios wants to hear from
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5 thoughts on “Reviving the art of making Iñupiat Mukluks | INDIE ALASKA

  1. The USA was never a country that I was interested in visiting but after watching a few videos on this channel, I decided to put Alaska in my list of places to visit in the future.

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