Alaska Native Traditional Dress Resources
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I did not expect when moving to Fairbanks that I should find much to interest me from a costume point of view (Fairbanks is justly famous even within Alaska for casual functionalism in dress). I was pleasantly and repeatedly disappointed in that expectation. The astonishing variety of traditional dress found in museums using fish skins, walrus guts, porcupine quills, moose hair embroidery, beads, grasses, and every imaginable hide has made Alaska a complete orgy of new costume history sensations.
Tlingit beadwork Raven pendant, Haines, AK.
If you are traveling to Alaska, these museums have exciting collections of Native dress on permanent display, and have bookshops where you can purchase books and slides.
Alaska State Museum 395 Whittier Juneau, AK 99801 (907) 465-2901 Collections: Fairly large collection of all the Native groups of Alaska, as well as a few bits of "Old Believer" (Russian) and "American" clothing of various periods.
Anchorage Museum of History and Art 121 West 7th Ave. Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 343-4326 Collections: Eskimo, Aleut, Tlingit and Athabaskan clothing and artifacts. Misc.Info: Gift/Bookshop sells Native made crafts, prints and publications.
SAMUEL K. FOX MUSEUM Seward and D. Sts. Dillingham, AK Mailing Address: P.O. Box 273 Dillingham, AK 99576 (907) 842-2322 Collections: Southwestern Yupik Eskimo arts and crafts, basket weaving, and skin sewing (clothing).
SHELDON JACKSON MUSEUM 104 College Drive. Sitka, AK 99835 (907) 747-6233 Collections: The best collection of early Native dress in the State, since this collection was started much earlier than the others. Items include Fish skin, gut skin and bird skin parkas, pre-contact style Athabaskan style garments with quill work trim, and an exceptional series of c.1900 photographs of Tlingit ceremonial dress. Misc. Info.: The bookstore sells slides, books and Native crafts (when I visited in 1989 they had a fishskin purse for sale with little fins sticking out on the sides!)
SHELDON MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER Main Street and First Haines, AK Mailing Address: P.O. Box 623 Haines, AK 99826 (907) 766-2366 Collections: Ethnographic collection includes Tlingit jewelry, dress and Chilcat Blankets, Eskimo gut skin parka and misc. other garments, and Athabaskan accessories. Misc. Info.: Connected with Alaska Indian Arts organization. Houses AIA collection when it isn't being used for performances, including several Chilcat blankets. Bookstore.
SITKA NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK 106 Metlakatla St. Sitka, AK 99835 (907) 747-6281 Collections: Good little collection of Tlingit and Haida dress. Misc. Info.: Also houses a cultural center where the production of traditional clothing is taught. Gift shop sells newly-made traditional clothing, jewelry and craft items.
TONGASS HISTORICAL MUSEUM 629 Dock St. Ketchican, AK 99901 (907) 225-5600 Collections: 182 costume items including 27 Native masks, and an unusual collection of Native and modern Alaskan dress.
University of Alaska Museum 907 Yukon Drive Fairbanks, AK 99775-1200 (907) 474-7505 Collections: Large collections of Tlingit, Eskimo, Aleut, and Athabaskan garments, accessories and textiles, including extensive collection of Athabaskan beaded articles and quillwork. A significant amount of the collection is on permanent display. Misc.Info.: Bookstore sells many books and posters on Native arts, including many of those mentioned in this listing. Will sell books through mail-order catalog.
Available from the Sheldon Jackson Museum:
- Tlingit Raven Shirt 1-a-288
- Tlingit Headdress 1-a-133
- Tlingit Mask 1-a-142
- Tlingit Kiksadiclan Raven Helmet 1-a-131
- Tlingit Dance Apron 1-a-262
- Athabaskan Mittens IV-a-10
- Athabaskan Mittens IV-c-7
- Athabaskan Knife and Sheath IV-d5 a, b
- Athabaskan Men's Trousers IV-x-10
- Athabaskan Skin Suit IV-x-22 a, b
- Eskimo Mask 11-b-81
- Eskimo Fishskin Hood and Cape 11-h-17
- Eskimo Fishskin Parka 11-h-75
- Eskimo Fishskin Mukluks 11-h-21
- Eskimo Hunting Hat 11-f-13
Available from the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center:
- Chilcat Blanket #700
- Chilcat Dancers #C-02
- Unfinished Chilcat Blanket #C-03
- Alaska Indians (Tlingit) in Costume #54
Available from the University of Alaska Museum:
- Beaded Sled Bag, Ft. Yukon, c. 1905
- Chief Thomas' Jacket, Tanana, c. 1910
- Beaded Mittens, c. 1925
- Beaded Game Bag, c. 1920
- Beaded Baby Belt, Kutchin, Old Crow, c. 1940
ALASKA INDIAN ARTS 23 Fort Seward Dr. Haines, AK Mailing Address: P.O. Box 269 Haines, AK 99827 (907) 766-2160 Performances: Tlingit dances/pantomimed stories performed at the Chilcat Center by a large (30-40) group during Summer. This group has an exceptional traditional dress collection, including several Chilcat blankets. They are the only group that performs while wearing these and so provide the only chance to see the blankets "in action" as they were intended to be worn.
NORTHERN INUA SHOW --UAF Museum Dome, Fairbanks, AK 99775, (907) 452-4529 Box office: (907) 456-7529 Performances: Shows traditional dances and athletic feats in modern renditions of traditional dress. Summers only.
FESTIVAL OF NATIVE ARTS Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK 99701 (907) 474-7181 Performances: Week-long festival including many dance groups, a large crafts fair, etc. held in late February-early March on the UAF campus.
TUMA THEATRE/THEATRE UAF Department of Theatre University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK 99775-1510 (907) 474-7751 Performances: Performs full-length company-written dramas in Native dance/pantomime style, in a combination of Native languages and English. Costumes (Editor's note: I'm the chief designer.) are modern adaptations of traditional dress.
The Cooperative Extension service of the University of Alaska Fairbanks puts out several patterns in pamphlet form in cooperation with the USDA. These patterns are modern renditions of traditional Alaskan clothing designs which are now used by many Native and nonnative inhabitants of the colder parts of Alaska. These pamphlets are sold at cost in the interest of teaching newcomers how to dress without breaking the bank or dying of hypothermia in a Fairbanks winter:
- The Cloth Parka, #72 - $.75
- Fur Parka, #71 - $1.00
- Tanning at Home #A-00320 - $1.00
- Family Winter Clothing for Interior Alaska (informational pamphlet) - Free
These pamphlets are chiefly of interest as examples of modern Alaskan Winter attire. It should be emphasized that these items are worn equally by Native and nonnative inhabitants in Fairbanks as they provide a good cheap alternative to the expensive (and more common) commercial down jackets. Local Alaskan sewing stores also sell full-size patterns for modern Alaskan parkas.
If you travel to Fairbanks, you may wish to purchase Native Athabaskan needlework supplies such as beads, porcupine quills, and books on Indian Beadwork. The two best suppliers in town are:
BEADS AND THINGS 537 2nd Ave Fairbanks, AK 99701 (907) 456-BEAD (also sells beaded items)
THE ALASKA RAW FUR COMPANY 4106 Boat St Fairbanks, AK 99701 (907) 479-2462 (also sells fur of all descriptions) | align="center" valign="top" |Google |- | align="left" valign="top" |
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