The bearded seals were harvested last summer and the seal skins were rolled up with seal fat (to help remove the seal fur). They were stored underneath the houses and then thawed a few days before hand. All of the houses on the North Slope are built on pilings (outsiders say the look like stilts) because the houses cannot touch the ground or else the heat from the house will melt the permafrost and then the house will sink.
These seal skins are thawed a few days before they are used. The fur is scraped off of the skin, and then sewn together as seen in the pictures. The smell is ripe for some people, and new seamstresses usually make a few mad dashes outside the first time they sew. I was used to smelling my mother in law from being around her after she is done with this sewing task, so the first time I sewed, I didnít even flinch. I've sewn only once, about two years ago, for my husband's family whaling crew Ė Akootchook Crew. It was a great experience and my mother in law Priscilla and the other ladies were very helpful and encouraging.
I was with my friend when I went to the Inupiat Heritage Center to take these pictures. I was in the Traditional Room for only ten minutes, and my friend almost threw up when I got back in the car. We had to drive with the windows down.