Sunday, March 6, 2011

Native Culture Fair

Several days ago, Julia and I and principal Susan took two students, Mattie and Miguel to a neighboring village called Kalskag. There's Upper Kalskag and Lower Kalskag, and in the fairly recent past they were warring factions, but now they have been able to come together enough to allow their kids to attend school together, so the high school is located between the two villages, and a school bus runs all over shuffling kids around. there are two more schools, in former years, each village had their own elementary, but now one is for the little ones and one for the older elementary. The high school is brand new, one month old. This is the third version, as they have had two fires that burned the school down. One fire was caused by sparks from welding in the shop getting sucked into a vent. I don't know what caused the other. We and other schools were invited for 4 days of native culture activities. There was native dance, beading, kuspuk sewing (the tunic-shirt), skin sewing, (with fur, making hats, mittens, booties, ect) and ulu making (a curved knife). There was also two dead moose, thanks to one of the teachers who took 3 boys out on a hunting trip. Kids used the ulus they made to cut up the moose and we had moose at every meal, and moose was distributed to the elders and people in need in the villages. We also had Blackfish, which are small little fish that are frozen, and then come alive as they thaw. No kidding, I saw it with my own eyes.  I sewed two hats out of rabbit fur called Malahai, (not how you spell it, I'm sure) and my nose ran the entire time, as I'm somewhat allergic to rabbit. No pain, no gain, and so I finished them, and made sure to pay attention to how the mittens were constructed so that hopefully I'll be able to teach the students we left at home, if they want to learn. Mattie made a pair of beaver fur mittens and Miguel made ulu knives. It was really neat to see the kids working on their projects. They really were taking a lot of pride in what they were working on. Julia was a star. Everyone wanted to carry her around and play with her. Even though she was cutting tooth number 6, she was pretty pleasant. Julia surprised us all by taking her first steps right in the middle of the sewing room. Just like that. I was pretty lucky to have my camera on me, so I got some video footage of the moment. Good thing too, because since we've gotten home, she's hardly taken any steps at all. We had a really great time at the culture fair, but after 4 nights of sleeping on the ground, I was pretty thrilled to have a bed again at home.

rehearsing a dance
lots of the boys danced too
Julia was very popular, everyone wanted to hold her.
Julia was excited about all the basketball playing going on

Miguel, working on his ulu

Miguel and his finished products

Another one of the finished ulus

Julia met Barbie

One of the moose

Students using the ulus they made to cut up the moose meat

One of the students, sewing her first kuspuk

and the finished product!

Mattie sewed beaver skin mittens

I made two hats, called Malahai, but probably not spelled like that. 

Julia sporting hers

You can tie back the ear flaps. 

testing the hat out in the cold


  1. Great photo essay! I remember the sign at the Nome Airport "All Ulus must be in checked baggage." They're a very interesting design.

  2. What awesome story telling Mary! Thank you so much for sending it all out here for us. Brad made sure that I got to see it after he saw it.
    The rabbit hats are marvelous. Julia looks so darling in hers. And her first steps are utterly precious!

  3. AAAAAH!!! Get that barbie away from her this instant. You need to sit her down for a talk about body image.

    And I second the comment about the hats--they're awesome!