An Alaska Native Cultural Heritage and Artistic Sovereignty in Museums Project funded through A Journey to What Matters

Museums Alaska-Alaska Native Heritage Center

Story & Photo by Nikki Corbett

alaska native

To say that I am grateful is an understatement. I feel very fortunate to have been able to see a portion of the amazing Yup’ik collection of handmade items by master artists from around the state and the Yukon Kuskokwim area.My focus while visiting the Alaska Native Heritage Center was to view piluguk (hard sole bottom books), teggumiaqs (dance fans), nasqerrun (headdress), traditional necklaces, and other skin sewn items. Since I have hit restart on my skin sewing journey I have been focusing piluguk because that was my first big sewing project I wanted to complete. My visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center was made possible thanks to The CIRI Foundation and Museums Alaska.  A big quyana to the staff at The Alaska Native Heritage Center for being so kind and gracious. 

With each beautiful handmade item, I felt a sense of peace. Viewing the Yup’ik collection of handmade clothing brought me so much joy and also sparked the connection again to start hand sewing again. I lost that spark after my brother passed on March 28th, 2023. After completing my first pair of piluguk I was on cloud 9 and that feeling was replaced with grief and immense sadness. I have been slowly making my way back to skin sewing and sewing but now it has become more important because it is healing my soul.  

Skin sewing has brought me closer to my grandmother Narull’aq and aunt Tun’aq. I have felt more connected to them since I started getting serious of skin sewing and it has been an amazing feeling. To be able to create with the guidance of my grandmother’s handmade clothing wear has been an honor. And my visit to The Alaska Native Heritage Center brought on that same sense of feeling. These opportunities have allowed me to grow as an artist in so many ways and for that I am forever grateful. I know that going forward I will pave the way for my skin sewing journey and I can’t wait to share that with my children, grandchildren, and future generations to follow. I hope that I can lead by example and show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Follow your dreams and stay true to yourself. And as always remember where you came from.  

Quyana Cakneq again to The CIRI Foundation, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, Museums Alaska. And most importantly quyana to our ancestors who have walked this earth before us and led by example. 

Through this initiative, Museums Alaska and The CIRI Foundation are fostering cultural sovereignty and preserving Alaska Native heritage for generations to come. Don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this remarkable endeavor when the program cycle opens in August 2023. Together, we can celebrate and honor the richness of Alaska Native cultures and promote a deeper understanding of our shared history.

Read more about TCF’s A Journey to What Matters: Increased Alaska Native Art & Culture