High Fashion In Alaska: Beaver Fur, Quills, Buttons And Beads

Clothes Make The Man  And Women Make The Clothes  Anchorage Museum (Photo by Country Journal, 2013)  Anchorage Museum Shows Athabascan Lifes...

Clothes Make The Man 
And Women Make The Clothes 

Anchorage Museum (Photo by Country Journal, 2013) 

Anchorage Museum Shows Athabascan Lifestyle 

A wooden bowl, wooden spoon, baby-carrying strap, and decorated fur clothing and high-topped boots are all on display at the Anchorage Museum. Visitors can see inside an Athabascan home in early years. (A tin bucket next to the display mannikin implies this was post-Western contact.)

Anchorage Airport Car Rental Corridor (Photo, Country Journal, 2014) 

Well-Tailored Athabascan Moosehide "Chief's Coat" Is Trim, Elegant And Beautifully Made By Dixie Alexander 

The "Chief's Coat" is a sign of status (and wisdom) in Athabascan communities. Chiefs are deeply respected in local life. They wear these coats at formal potlatches, funerals, birthdays... and they reflect local women's skill. This smoked moosehide garment is beautifully crafted. It's made and ornamented with dentalium, silver beads, glass beads, cotton velvet, beaver trim, felt, nylon and caribou skin. "Dentalium" is a kind of shell, which can be up to 2 inches long, and can be strung together. Dentalium shells are used all over North America by indigenous peoples to decorate clothing. Dixie Alexander, who crafted this coat, is from Fort Yukon. Her work is shown at the Museum of the North, and the Smithsonian. She was Cultural Program Director at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center in Fairbanks. This coat is in a display case in a corridor at Anchorage International Airport. You can view it by walking down to the airport car rental desks inside the building. 

(Photo by Country Journal, October 2015) 

Huslia Athabascan Alaskan Vest For The Modern Guy 

Lee DeWilde's wife, Lillian, made him this jacket, which he's modeling at the 2015 AFN Convention. 

Palmer Museum historic display. (Photo by Country Journal, 2011) 

Katherine Wade Of Chickaloon Beaded An Elegant White Moosehide Garment  

This piece is as classically beautiful as anything a modern woman could wear to a soiree or even the Academy Awards. This Athabascan tanned hide garment, with floral beadwork – on display in Palmer, Alaska, at the local visitor center and museum – was made in Chickaloon. The village is on the border of the Copper River Valley, where the Ahtna people live, and the Matanuska Valley, which is Denai'na Country. This tendril-decorated beadwork on moosehide that has been bleached white is reminiscent of older-style beadwork. Earlier beading, which used fewer beads, tended to have looping vines. As time went on, and beads became more common, denser beading, which covered large squares or ovals, began to become standard. 

Chief's Jacket AT UAF Museum. (Photo, Country Journal, 2014) 

Chief Jacob Luke's Wife & Stepdaughter Crafted His Jacket 

This Athabascan "Chief's Jacket" is at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks Museum of the North. It was made for Chief Jacob Luke, of Stevens Village and Fort Yukon, by his wife – Bella Luke. His 14-year old stepdaughter, Lilly, did the intricate beadwork. The primary makers of the jacket were Bella Luke and Lilly Pitka. They made it in 1962, of moosehide, velvet, dentalia shells, and beads.

Museum of the North in Fairbanks. (Photo by Country Journal, 2014) 

Traditional Tanana Athabascan Moosehide Clothing From 1910  

Stylish moosehide clothing, with heavy decoration, is on display at the Museum of The North in Fairbanks, on the University of Alaska campus. On the left, the chief's jacket is made of hide, and trimmed with beaver fur, cloth and beads. The woman's dress and belt were worn by the wife of Chief Thomas, of Wood River, a Tanana village. This piece of clothing is made of moosehide, and decorated with dentalia, porcupine quills, buttons and yarn.


Everything an artist needed. (Photo, Country Journal, 2017) 

Athabascan Woman's Skin Sewing Kit 

A tidy, thoughtful, and obviously essential portable tool kit, with everything needed for making classic Alaskan Native clothing, is on display at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center in Fairbanks. The Morris Thompson Center is unique in that modern and traditional life are shown interchangeably. 

This is a story by the Copper River Country Journal celebrating Native Heritage Month, 2021. 


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