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"Copper Woman" by Alaska Native artist Clarissa Hudson      

Copyright 2003
Sealaska Heritage Institute
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Clothing & Regalia▲ 
"Fur Parka"

This fur parka is made of mink, beaver, calf skin, wolverine, wolf, ling cod skin, beads and satin.

Ruff (hood cover) is called a "sunshine ruff" with the inner fur being of beaver, the next outward is wolverine which repels frost, lastly; the outer fur consists of approximately 50 different pieces of wolf mane to produce this splendid coloration and "sunshine" effect. The sunshine ruff is made to resemble the rays of the sun beaming from one's face.

The front and rear of this beautiful parka has a design done in calf skin embellished with ling cod skin representative of walrus tusks. In some bands of Inupiat it was believed to ward off evil spirits while in other groups it was used as a defensive design in that when threatened by a keen-sighted polar bear, the parka could be pulled up showing the tusks, which created a creature with big teeth to ensure the polar bear would leave the wearer alone.

Not only is the outline in ling cod decorative, it also keeps the outside air out. The design in calf skin is decorative but they too sometimes were used to tell stories.

The tassels hanging on the front, back and sleeves are of wolverine. In the days of old, they represented wealth. The more white fur one has on tassels and parka, the more successful the hunter. Only the most successful of families had a parka made from white mink or ermine.

After extensive conversations with village elders and perusal of photographic archives, the artist created this hoping it will help in the perpetuation of her culture.

Photo Gallery. By Kathleen Westlake. $7,500.00  (#1146)