Alaska Native Collections – Sharing Knowledge

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Birdskin parka

atkuk “parka”
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.

Culture: 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