Native Heritage Month: sharing traditions

Beading is a Native Alaskan traditional art form that has been handed down through the generations. ‘It is a way to tie in home with something that goes on at the university,’ said Rachel Long, University of Alaska Anchorage student.

Native craft workshops are offered at UAA each Friday this month, which is celebrated as Native Heritage Month. Guest artists will also teach workshop participants to make other crafts, such as fur mittens and hand drums.

‘You don’t need any experience, and we make small things so that people can take them home with them,’ Long said, while sewing beads on a pair of earrings.

Long, a Yup’ik, said she is not sure how the tradition of beading originated, but believes that the Native Alaskan’s began trading with the first Russians who came to Alaska. ‘[Natives] traded furs for beads,’ she said. ‘Beads were the sign of a good provider. They would trade a whole sled of furs for just one bead.’

Long explained that the bead colors and styles varied among the different tribes of Alaska. Her tribe used traditional colors with natural pigments, such as red, white, black and blue.

Inpiaq Maggie Okomailuk said, ‘Blue turquoise was popular in my tribe.’ The type of beading varied, but it was, and still remains, an important part of each tribe’s culture.

The last Sharing Traditions workshop will be held on Nov. 17 in BEB, Room 108, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.