By Mary Babic
The local natural resources used to fashion traditional clothing incorporated elements of function, identification, and practices for the people and lifestyle of the Chugach Region.
1. What properties of the natural resources made clothing viable for various elements of the environment?
2. Why is clothing significant to the physical and spiritual aspect of the Chugach culture?
“I have read somewhere that there are a million hairs per square inch on a sea otter hide. Sea otter makes a nice hat, mittens, or parka because it is so warm. The nicest fur around.” -Peggy McDaniel, Cordova
The Chugach Sugpiat and Eyak people made clothing that kept them warm and dry. It was believed the clothing had special spiritual and social meanings. The following excerpt from Looking Both Ways wonderfully describes what the clothing kit is based on along with our Chugach Elder’s traditional ecological knowledge (TEK).“Beautiful craftsmanship by Alutiiq seamstresses expressed respect for animals, whose skins enveloped the clothed persons and whose spirits in the wild were ever alert to human attitudes, actions, and appearance. Mindful of this relationship, hunters wore new, clean garments, and men and women donned their best parkas, beaded headdresses, ermine hats, and other special garments for the winter hunting ceremonies. Clothing, jewelry, and tattoos, were equally important as a means of social communication. Variations in style, and materials signaled a person’s rank, gender, age, and place of origin. The clothing was fashioned with a multidimensional expression of culture and values.”
In this heritage kit, students will learn about traditional clothing from head to toe. The kit has lessons that incorporate the variety of materials and animals used for the clothing. The virtual wardrobe can be used to enhance the clothing lessons that allow the students to see themselves clad in traditional clothing. The puppets made by Mary Babic, Cecil and Exenia (Sugpiat puppets) and Galushia and Sophie (Eyak puppets) will provide a visual understanding of the important role that clothing played in the survival of our people.
Lessons on how to gather, harvest and weave with spruce roots. The spruce root lessons will also teach about the significance and representation of the spruce root hunting hat. Lessons about the many types of furs and bird skins used to construct a parka, the value of each and ornamentation. Lessons about the waterproof stitch used on intestines of a seal, whale, sea lion, or bear or with fish skins to construct a waterproof garment. Students will learn to construct a traditional sewing bag and become aware of bone needles and sealskin thimbles that were carefully stored in this bag. Lessons on how to thigh spin, twine and weave mountain goat wool that was traditionally used to create a beautiful robe for warmth and social status. Students will learn about how to create mittens, boots and the resources the Sugpiat and Eyak used to create these functional yet beautiful pieces of artwork. The lessons will incorporate insulation properties and resources used to keep their feet and hands warm and dry.
As the students are learning about traditional clothing, our Sugpiat and Eyak elders emphasized they also understand the importance to respect our land and resources. This passed down knowledge will ensure continued use through many generations to come.
Spruce Root Weaver
Nuta’at Mingqusqat | New Alutiiq Skin Sewers
Teri Rofkar, Rasmuson Foundation Distinguished Artist 2013
Delores with a spruce root hat in progress
Patience Andersen-Faulkner, Cordova, on Clothing
Material Traditions - Sewing Salmon
Material Traditions: Sewing Gut
Gut Parka Informational Video
Salmon Skin Tanning by Mary Babic
Chugach Tradtional Clothing Puppet Show featuring Exenia, Cecil, Galusia and Sophie
Student’s Traditional Clothing Puppet Show
Gathering Spruce Root
How to Make a Kakiwik
Patience Andersen-Faulkner on Twining
How to Sew a Fur Headband
• Climate Change
• Food From the Sea
• Honoring Eyak
• Our Water
• Traditional Food & Recipes
• Traditional Housing & Shelters
• Traditional Place Names
• Traditional Transportation
• Traditional Weather Forecasting
• Additional Heritage Kits
1840 Bragaw Street, Suite 110
Anchorage, Alaska 99508-3463
ANA Grant Number S356A150066