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Journey to What Matters- Sivuqaq Parka-Making Workshops

Sivuqaq Parka-Making Workshops

Grantee: Bering Strait School District, Story by Brianna (Blatchford) Wheeler

Bering Strait School District was able to partner with The CIRI Foundation last fall to provide materials and resources for Qaguus Kunuka to pass on traditional knowledge about parka-making for her older students. Students and community members were excited to see skin sewing, patterns, and other technical skills that might not otherwise have been widely spread being passed to a whole new generation. This group of students worked hard and worked together, learning to use traditional materials and learning to make high-quality, beautiful, functional parkas, start to finish.

When COVID hit Alaska and schools closed suddenly, many of these projects appeared to be stranded with no way to finish. However, the students were determined to work hard, learning however they could, in order to complete their work. Parents went to Qaguus with phones to film a new step their students could complete at home. The students asked questions, worked hard, and figured out how, even in a world of distance learning, to connect with their mentor and learn what they needed. On graduation day, the village held a parade for graduates and the students from Qaguus’s class proudly rode through town in sealskin-covered graduation caps and brand new parkas. The whole community celebrated their accomplishments.

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