• Alaska Iñupiaq skin-sewing designs: a portal into cultural identity

      Topkok, Amelia Katherine Ahnaughuq (2018-05)
      What it means to be an Indigenous person in the 21st century is a powerful and moving experience, and how we explore our own identity is up to us. Access to differing worldviews through printed literature and academia give a largely non-Indigenous viewpoint and inaccurate impressions of what it means to be "Iñupiaq." Indigenous education programs throughout the world, however, are emerging and emphasize personal views of individuals, creating a window into their worldview. Recognizing these worldviews validate Indigenous knowledge and allows this knowledge to be brought into arenas previously thought to be only relevant through Western knowledge. We all are human; we learn in many different ways, and through relationships and cultural training, we create and redefine our identity through experiential learning. Revealing skin sewers' perspectives of themselves, their values, and ways they express cultural identity is part of my research. Examining personal family history and other sources exploring Iñupiaq perspectives of women (or men if found) and their skin-sewn garments, demonstrates how these garments serve as cultural icons of "being Iñupiaq." Part of their story is learning who their mentors are, how were they influenced by Iñupiaq values, and the role of garments representing identity. There are varying reasons of what it means to be Iñupiaq: ideals, values, and human bonds exist between the creator and the wearer of skin-sewn garments.