Language: St. Lawrence Island Yupik
My grandma used to spend the whole summer cleaning auklets. Keep them in a wooden barrel, soak them in there, and then use a scraper to clean, clean, clean. The back of the skin would be white.
—Elaine Kingeekuk, 2007
St. Lawrence Island women made parkas from the skins of auklets, ducks, cormorants, murres, and other birds. In the Lore of St. Lawrence Island (1987), elder Hilda Aningayou said, “Bird skins make very good and warm parkas. With a bird-skin parka, one will never freeze to death.” This one was sewn from crested auklets with a dark-colored guillemot skin at each shoulder. The hood ruff, cuffs, and bottom trim are dog fur. The average parka required about eight-five crested auklets, thirty-five murres or puffins, or twenty-five cormorant skins, all stitched together with whale or reindeer sinew.
St. Lawrence Island Yupik
Region: St. Lawrence Island, Alaska
Object Category: Clothing
Dimensions: Length 122cm
Accession Date: 1923
Source: Mrs. Thea Heye (donor)
Museum: National Museum of the American Indian
Museum ID Number: 118010.000
Lydia Apatiki: Kiyang aatkat whangkuta uliimaaput apamta aagkut uliimaaghit.
(We mostly made our own clothing, our late ancestors did.)
Una atkuggaq maaten akuzimghhutkegkefut sukilpameng uliimaaghuuq.
(The parka that we spoke about is made from crested auklets.)
Puvitkelghii qikmiraaghmeng. Unegnangallu qikmiiraaghmeng uliimaaghuuq.
(It has a ruff of dog fur. The bottom edge is also dog fur.)
(They [birdskin parkas] are warm. They were for hunting.)
Napistet ghhuusigalkangi qayughllak maqaghqengngwaaghluteng aatkameng whaten napikayuget.
(Hunters never became cold, because they dressed warmly in clothes like this, those who usually go hunting. Lots of work was needed to make them.)
Elaine Kingeekuk: Nanevgat siivanlleghet qavngaq qiighqaminguq qerngughunneghmeggni Sivuqami
(Old men, elders long ago, there would be island gatherings at Sivuqaq (present Gambell))
(They would recognize a person from their parka.)
Qiighqami taakwani metghaghtuqat metghaghmenguq atkugtuulluteng.
(On a certain part of the island, those that have plenty of eider ducks would use duck parkas.)
Naghuyatuqat naghuyameng atkugluteng. Sukilpaq ngelqaq.
Atkugitgunnguq liisuqaqiit naken pimatangit qiighqami.
(Those with plenty of gulls, would use gull parkas. Crested auklet, pelagic cormorant. They recognize where they come from on their parkas.)
Entaqun Kiyalighamelnguut taakut metghameng kiyang atkukelghiit.
(I think those from Kiyalighaq used eider duck parkas.)
Lydia Apatiki: Whani entaqun qafsina over hundred-nguuq atuqegkaat.
(On this one, they probably used over a hundred [crested auklets].)
Katam entaqun piigyuguumanghata simighaqluki.
(It seems that because these [skins] were easy to tear, they would replace them.)
(They would have extras.)
Whangaqun little over sanguuq forty entaqun atkusqughhaghmun.
(For comparison, I used a little over forty [skins] for a small-sized parka.)
[…] Kinengllallghi kukragniiteghllagtut.
(The process of drying them is simple.)
Aallengam apeghtughaqmininga, aghvigtughwaaghluki keligaqluki.
(The way Adeline Aningayou taught me, we would wash them thoroughly while scraping them.)
Meghqun pikaqanka Joy-meng soap-eklunga.
(I’ve done them in water, using Joy soap.)
Sipegtaghluki eslakun qaaggun llilaghtughluki.
(The water is squeezed out, and they are placed outside.)
Unaamingani aghhneghani esghaqumteki tagneghqwaaluteng alla aghvigyaghqaagut.
(The next morning when it gets to be light outside, if we see that they have darkened we wash them again.)
(Getting all the oil out of them.)
Wetku qateghhneghaata kinellghi taawa.
(It is only when they have become white that they are really dry.)
Angela Larson: Ukut uyaqghwi iikluki paamnangi natengiighhaq 1 inches sangwaa 2 inches.
(The necks were taken off, and one inch or two inches from the backs.)
Neqaangi qaamkut temtii sipegtaqegkangit uultaqegkangit amiirii melqwi qamanlluki.
(They would strip the meat off of the body and turn the fur [feathers] inside.)
Taaqneghminiki taagken akmagutat… Kepegkat sangulukilli? Ghhutet?
(When she was finished with that, she would then…What were those wooden kegs called… Ghhutet [urine tub]?)
Lydia Apatiki: Aa ghhutet.
(Yes, urine tub.)
Angela Larson: Tamavek kanaghquutaqii.
(She placed them in those.)
Elaine Kingeekukj: Tawavek ghhutegnun kanaghhnaqneqghmegteki nagataqa Aghhaayam allngughhniiqii.
(When they placed them in the [urine] pail, I heard Aghhaaya say that they were letting them “dive in”.)
Aqlaghsighluki maaten apellghatun.
(They dried them, as she said a while ago.)
Aqlanghata ikughluki qugiinii. Neghaqegkangit quginiillu. Kingikaam neghaqii.
(When they were dry, they took the fat off. They also eat the fat. Kingikaq eats them.)
Taagken kanaghlluki meghmun pineghmegteki allngughhniiqiit.
(Then they put them in [the urine pail] and that action is called “letting them dive in”.)
Allngughtaqiinnguq kiilqusiq. Keligtughaqluki tawaten ughvigkun.
(They would let them “dive” all summer long. Then they would scrape them with an ivory scraper.)
Merlin Koonooka: Uum esghaaqaaluni tuuyngani umuqutelighluni nangrugnayukata.
(On this one we see that the shoulder has been reinforced with an additional layer to protect against wear.)
Akmaghquyuneghtuqat qamughyuneghtuqat neqniineghmeggni neqenneghmeggni sikugni.
(They would always pack things on their backs and pull loads when they were out hunting, when they caught game on the sea ice.)
Lydia Apatiki: Kitum aapghaqii un’gavegnguq sikugnun piyaaneghmeggni unaangumaneghmeggni qamaatameng taglaghaqelghiit
(Someone said that when they would go hunting on the ice and catch a seal, they would be pulling it home.)
(They would sweat a lot inside [their parkas].)
Legannguq taakut aghinghata atkuggateng uusluki aataqiit.
(They would flip their parkas inside out when they became wet.)
Kinellghi qamanlluki taakut qaayngi yukutaghtekat legan freeze dry-aaqelghiit. Kiinghaqelghiit.
(The dry part would be inside, and the outside that was damp would freeze-dry. They would dry up.)
[From discussion with John Apassingok, Lydia Apatiki, Ralph Apatiki, Sr., Elaine Kingeekuk, Christopher Koonooka, Merlin Koonooka, Angela Larson and Jonella Larson White at the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum, January 2012.]
Estelle Oozevaseuk: Those look like auklets with the guillemot shoulders.
Branson Tungiyan: So these are guillemots [dark skins at parka shoulders]. Samseghhaghaq [pigeon guillemot], black birds with orange feet.
Jacob Ahwinona: Yes, but these [parka body]?
Estelle Oozevaseuk: Sukilpaagut.
(They are crested auklets.)
Branson Tungiyan: Naghuyaaghaanayukata.
(I thought they might be young sea gulls.)
Estelle Oozevaseuk: No, they’re not like that.
Branson Tungiyan: There’s two kinds, crested and tufted.(1)
Aron Crowell: So these are the tufted auklets?
Estelle Oozevaseuk: Yes, crested are the small ones and white.(2)
[From discussion with Jacob Ahwinona, Estelle Oozevaseuk, Marie Saclamana and Branson Tungiyan (Kawerak, Inc.) at the National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of the American Indian, 5/07/2001-5/11/2001. Also participating: Aron Crowell and Bill Fitzhugh (NMNH) and Suzi Jones (AMHA).]
1. “Tufted” is probably a reference to parakeet auklet.
2. She may be referring to a parakeet auklet.
St. Lawrence Island women made light, warm parkas from the skins of ducks, cormorants, murres, loons, crested auklets, and puffins. Other arctic and Bering Sea cultures had similar parkas, which were worn in both winter and summer.(1)
Hunters used nets to catch crested auklets at their rookeries near Gambell village. Although no longer used for parkas, crested auklets are still important on the island as a subsistence food.(2)
Men’s and women’s bird parkas were similar in design. An average-sized coat required about 85 crested auklets, 35 murres or puffins, or 25 cormorant skins, stitched together with whale or reindeer sinew.(3) Bird parkas were reinforced at the bottom and cuffs with dog or seal skin, with dog fur around the hood to protect the face from wind and cold.
1. Giddings 1961:140; Hughes 1964:7; Moore 1923:341-42; Nelson 1898:31: Ray 1966:40; Silook 1976:20
2. Paige et al. 1996
3. Silook 1976:20