“It is November, and Ulukhaktok is on blizzard warning tonight. Visibility is low as we trudge against winds up to 70km/hr and hard bits of snow whips into our eyes, we arrive at the youth center where Nunamin Illihakvia: Learning from the Land sewing classes are held. The door opens onto a scene that warms our heart immediately – there is laughter in the room, and elder Margaret Notaina is sitting on the floor with young mothers Susie Nigiyok and Denise Okheena, between them a sewing machine and a scatter of wolfskins. Avery, Denise’s two year old daughter is imitating the elder and her mother, using her hands to press gently down the hairs on a wolf pelt for the amaruq that Denise is making. An amaruq is the sunburst wolf fur trim on the hood of an Inuvialuit parka, and Denise is looking forward to making her first one for her baby.
Annie Inuktalik, instructor and elder known for her exquisite sewing dips a straight teeth comb into water, gently taming the strands of wolf fur that are astray. “You comb it like this, to make sure that the length of the hairs are even,” she shares.
“The amaruq is made of 3 layers of fur, with a canvas base. We use wolf furs with dark tips on the outside layer, the middle layer is lighter, and the back layer too. If the skin is not straight but it’s already dry we need to scrape it so it’s easier to work with. We fold the wolfskin right down the middle. We cut the long hair right by the edges and use that. We use a measuring piece to cut little pieces of the same size, and we cut off the ends so it should be all even. You can make two ruffs with one skin.”
In the room, there are other young mothers, most of them learning this skill for the first time.
Posted here with permission.