This week, the Anchorage Museum is hosting a master artists’ workshop to highlight a key implement of Arctic survival — the snowshoe. Gwich’in and Koyukon snowshoe makers Trimble Gilbert of Arctic Village, George Albert of Ruby, and Butch Yaska of Huslia build traditional snowshoes of sinew, hide and birch while teaching the intricate construction process to apprentices from their communities.
Through Friday, museum visitors may observe the artists at work as they bend, carve and string snowshoes in the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center.
During this four-day workshop, the artists have discussed snowshoe making in their Native languages, documenting the rich vocabulary and traditional knowledge that surround this focal item of Athabascan culture. Smithsonian anthropologists have been documenting the workshop to produce a multilingual publication and film.
This is one of several major research endeavors the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center has led recently, including a Dena’ina language workshop. This program is sponsored by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering Voices program, and National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.