Local News

Sealaska plans otter-skin sewing workshops

Sealaska Heritage Institute will offer skin-sewing workshops in six Southeast Alaska communities, in an effort to revitalize a traditional art form and spark a regional cottage industry.

Through the program, called the Southeast Alaska Sustainable Arts Project, students in Kake, Sitka, Prince of Wales Island, Hoonah, Juneau and Yakutat will learn to stretch hides, cut patterns and hand-sew hats and scarves from furs.

Here’s SHI President Rosita Worl.

“At Sealaska Heritage Institute what we’re saying is ‘How did individuals earn their income in the past?’ So we looked at those villages where we know that we have first of all a large Native population and secondly they have the resources that are available to them there,” Worl said.

The project builds on a program sponsored by SHI nine years ago in Hoonah, where the institute operated a three-year basketry-weaving program, taught by Ketchikan’s master weaver Delores Churchill.

Through that program, 20 women learned to weave. According to the institute, some of the women now teach others to weave, and are earning income through sales of their work.

Another workshop focused on how to make moccasins. So far, that program has taught about 90 students, and some are selling their work.

“So we have a cultural tradition we’ve revitalized but we also have the ability for individuals to earn some income,” Worl said.

During the skin-sewing workshops, students will learn to make a pill box-style hat or a hunter’s-style hat, and a keyhole scarf from sea otter fur. Applicants who are not eligible for the class under the Marine Mammal Protection Act can bring an alternate material.

There is a fee to cover the cost of materials.

The workshop on Prince of Wales Island has not yet been scheduled.

For more information or to register, send an email to lorene.hanlon@sealaska.com or call 586-9129.

The workshop schedule is available at http://www.sealaskaheritage.org/programs/Art/SkinSewing.html

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