Ahh, hi again.
Springtime has officially hit Kotzebue. It's light when we go to work, it's light when we get off work. It's even bright still if you're on 153 and you walk off the plane at 7:00 p.m!
But it's still cold. Luckily we have lots of FUR to keep us warm. Lots of fur. From helpless defenseless animals. Poor animals. Whoa, sorry, that was me trying to fee sorry that an Arctic Fox is keeping me from getting frostbite on my face. It's not working.
According to Eskimo oral history, animals give themselves to hunters and trappers so that their meat and fur and sometimes bones can be used to feed, clothe and give tools to the Inupait people. And we thank them by using everything on them. We thank them after the hunt.
And by "everything" I mean that on a caribou, we eat: all the meat, the head, brain, eyes, tongue (best part), neck, stomach (bible), liver, kidneys, intestines (actually I've never had intestines from caribou before), heart (second best part), and even the little bot fly larvae that nest in the fur, old Eskimos eat those too. We use: the fur for parkas, mukluks, qaitchiaqs, bedding and sled cushions (did you know caribou fur is hollow and will float? Old time life jackets!), the tendons for sinew to sew with, the fat around the rump and stomach for akutuq, the antlers for fishing rods, knife handles, and coat racks (my personal favorite is a towel rack my dad made at camp) and even the hooves are used for something!
Did you know that wolverine fur never frosts over? It has some sort of oil in the fur that allows it never to develop that layer of frost always seen around the faces of people outside in the winter up here. A strip of wolverine fur around your hood will keep that frost from getting to your face. If you have umiks though (a beard) then you'll frost over, apparently humans didn't develop that oil needed!
Wolf hackles are used for sunshine ruffs, as well as all my husband and children's ruffs because when you put your hood up, the guard hairs of the wolf never allow the wind to touch your face. Since it's windy 110% of the time here, having guard hairs to deflect wind is important.
Next time you think that we savage Eskimos "don't need to use those poor animals because there are plenty of man-made materials that will keep you just as warm," then I invite you to come over to where I live with your man-made materials and spend the winter up here. My children walk to school when it is -70 below zero. We head to our camp with no running water, electricity and only a wood stove to heat it when it's -30 below and blowing snow. With our fur parkys and sealskin hats and wolf mittens and caribou mukluks!
I just recently made a fur hat for a vegetarian. And even the sole vegan in town uses 100 goose down in her jacket, because what else would you use!? Why? Because they've been up here for the winter. They know that any man made material will not keep them warm.
And they're right. It won't. :)
L-R: Max, wearing a fur parka, a black cloth cover with a wolverine ruff, beaver and leather hat, beaver and mouton mittens, jeans and sorels. Kaisa, wearing a fur parka with a wolf ruff (with a strip of wolverine on the inside), Otter and Leather hat, sealskin and beaver mittens, jeans and sorels. Maddie, wearing a fur parka, a maroon canvas cover with a wolverine ruff, wolverine trim on the bottom, beaver trim on the wrists, mouton and leather mittens, beaver and leather hat, and sorels (we must love sorels!), Koy, not smiling, but wearing a mens traditional hunting parka with fur inside and white canvas outter with a wolf ruff, sheared beaver and leather hat, wolf hunting mittens, jeans and bunny boots. Maija (me) wearing a Handmade winter jacket from wintergreen in Minnesota, an arctic fox hat, sealskin and beaver mittens, and lobbins, boiled wool boots from Norway. And Dean wearing a similar jacket, sealskin and otter hat and none of his other hunting gear because he didn't want to take the picture! haha. But he does have TWO pullover hunting parkys, wolf mittens, and sealskin hardbottom mukluks. We all have mukluks, I don't know why we didn't wear them for the picture. Oh yeah, it was -42 below zero when we took this and my camera took three photos and froze. That's why. :)