Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Traditional Wooden Sled

I was walking to the post office this afternoon and I saw Ralph Kiunya making a wooden sled. I had seen him make wooden sleds several times since I’ve been back to Kong. I asked him what he’s going to do with it. When he’s finished building it, he will sell it to someone from another village for a couple hundred dollars. From time to time he receives orders for wooden sleds. Ralph has a reputation for creating quality sleds at a low price. He’s Kong’s version of Wal-Mart, but instead of the goods coming from China, they come from the hardworking hands of an American Yup'ik Eskimo.

Since jobs are very scarce in the villages, some people continue to make things like native crafts like baskets, jewelry, parkas, etc. as a way of making income. While craft items are often sold to tourists, sleds are bought, sold and traded within this region to locals who must have this in order to survive the arctic winters. Ralph has been making wooden sleds for several years. Most families here have wooden sleds to haul driftwood for steam baths or chunks of ice for drinking water. People often use wooden sleds as a means of transporting passengers on snow-machines to nearby villages.

1 comment:

skipvia said...

Wonderful! I love the pictures (your snow looks about as pitiful as ours right now--we need more!) and your description of the sled-making practice. The more stories we can tell about Alaska, the more people will be able to understand our unique situation.

Did you ever think about creating a blog that showcased some of the local crafts for sale? I'd bet that you could generate quite a lot of interest, especially if you added some of your excellent observations about local traditions and tools.