To Keep Them Warm: The Alaska Native Parka

by Suzi Jones & Melissa Shaginoff

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April 2022 – January 2023

Parkas are complex expressions of Alaska Native cultures’ deep respect for the animals of land and sea. The harmonious marriage of beauty, function, and resourcefulness, parkas are a living tradition rooted in centuries of indigenous knowledge of material science and design. They also demonstrate the resilience of indigenous communities to thrive in the arctic environment.

To Keep Them Warm examines the continuum of Alaska Native parka-making with examples from Yup’ik, Inupiaq, Unangan, Dena’ina Athabascan and St. Lawrence Island Yupik cultures. Also included are indigenous drawings, dolls and parka-making tools, as well as historic photographs, to illustrate the contexts in which parkas are worn. Examples of new directions in parka-making and sewing complete the picture of the Alaska Native parka in contemporary society.

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