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My traditional name is Kootink. I belong to the Shank’weidi Wolf clan and take great pride in my Tlingit heritage. I have always loved the stories of my great-grandmother, a skilled skin-sewer, and how my dad helped her tan seal skins when he was a child. Storytelling is an important part of our culture, as it has allowed our traditions to be passed down for over ten thousand years.


When I was 8 years old, I began my journey into skin sewing after my parents had regalia made for me - a buckskin dress hand-sewn from deer leather that my dad harvested for our family's food. I started sewing by making a matching buckskin dress, headband, and belt for one of my Barbies, using the scraps of leather from my regalia.


We respect the animals we hunt and utilize every part of them. The capes from the deer we harvest are preserved and transformed into leather, serving as a reminder of our connection to our food and the land. At 12 years old, I made my first pair of moccasins, which have lasted an impressive 25 years.


I primarily sew with deer leather and sea otter fur, but I also incorporate wolf, seal, and other materials into my work. Sea otter fur is known for its rich color, warmth, and softness, with up to one million hairs per square inch, making it the densest and warmest fur of any mammal.


I am grateful for my mentors. I am able to practice my culture because of those who took the time to invest in teaching and guiding me. Every winter, my dad and I hunt sea otters and seals. In the spring, I flesh, salt, and dry the hides, preparing them for tanning. He has taught me everything he knows. My auntie played an important role in teaching me moccasin-making, which led me to expand my skills to create hats, headbands, blankets, and more.


Skin sewing is a way for me to carry on the traditions of my ancestors, honor my great-grandmother, and preserve our rich culture. Through my work, I strive to bridge the past with the present. I hope to pass on my knowledge to the next generation.

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