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Story of a North Alaskan Woman.

Alaska is the last frontier. It is a land of sharp contrasts, ice fields, glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, vast tundra, rugged trails, lush farming areas and a few paved highways.

Typically, one travels by boat or by air but to get to one point to another, four wheel drive vehicles and snowmobiles are of great value to someone living and traveling in this vast and perilous land. However, the great geological map of nature is there to remind you of obstacles and how to pursue the route to your destination, safely and efficiently.

You will find ice age sculptured mountain ranges still wearing ice caps and glaciers. These mountain ranges are colossal and huge valleys have been carved by rivers like the Yukon, the Taku, the Copper and the Kuskokwim. These rivers have left extraordinary canyons among their course.

Due to the huge size of this state, the mountain ranges and the currents of its oceans, the climate is varied.

So, if you visit Alaska, it is important to check on the weather conditions before you choose a destination as well as the safest route to get there. Usually, the best time to visit is from May to September but there is no guarantee of good weather!

To live in this land, you must have certain survival skills. The following is the story of Duuklaq, written from an interview with a remarkable American native woman.

Duuklaqu’ Story

Duuklaq was born and raised in Selawik, ninety miles from Kotzebue. Her father, Sagraq and her mother Hannah, were also born and raised in the same town.

As a child, Duuklaq had many duties mostly she helped with the house chores. She and her mother would go around the village and remind each housewife to air their homes, for blankets had to be fresh and hung out once a week. This was an Eskimo custom. As they went around the village, they would be greeted cordially by the other women and entertained with lively chats.

Duuklaq’s father, Sagraq, went hunting to feed and clothe his family. He would hunt mostly caribou, moose, bear and would also go ice fishing. Fish is a great part of the Eskimo’s diet.

What a struggle to survive! It was a hard life for a young child, as we perceive it, but Duuklaq was very happy. She went to school with the children of the village and rapidly grew up to adulthood.

When the right time came, she married and moved with her new husband to Kodiak Island. This island is well known for its native Kodiak bear. I can assure you that they are huge and ferocious.

A bit later on, Duuklaq and her husband moved to Kotzebue, located in the freezing far North, where her children were born, seven of them.

In Kotzebue, life is rugged, especially when you have to survive in such harsh elements.

When it’s time for the Eskimo men to get ready to hunt, they assemble food, weapons, such as harpoons, knives and guns. When all is ready, they get into their boats and locate their prey—seal. The killing is swift and skillful. The seal is dragged into the skiffs and taken to shore.

Duuklaq and the women from the village, would then begin their work, for it is their duty to prepare the seal.

The mammal is deftly butchered; it is a main source of food. It’s boiled, dried or preserved in seal oil. In some cases, it’s eaten raw.

The bearded seal is the only variety of seal used for blubber, which is eaten raw or cooked. I find this to be an interesting fact.

Duuklaq would spend hours preparing the seal, using the “Ulu” meaning “woman’s knife,” with which she would cut, strip and scrape the meat off the skin.

Duuklaq made most of their clothing, using the skins that she had so skillfully prepared.


She would sew the skins and made “ugruliks,” boots with seal soles. Using a “skin” needle, she made “mukluks,” (high boots) mittens with wolf, beaver, elk hide and muskrat. I was lucky to be able to view some of her beautiful and skillful work.

Her husband would also fish for salmon, a daily diet of the American Natives in Alaska.

Using her “ulu,” Duuklaq would begin to strip the fish and hang it up on rugged wooden racks (usually made of branches) to dry. Then, part of it would be stored to be eaten in the freezing winter.

Her husband would also go hunting for caribou, moose and wolf.

She made “mukluks” with wolf, beaver and elk hide, using a “skin” needle; mittens were made of beaver, wolf and muskrat.

Today, she is still doing these admirable and useful fur garments, including unbelievable raccoon hats, like you have never seen before. What an extraordinary woman!

Incidentally, it is a tradition for the elders to teach the younger generation how to make fur parkas, which are very difficult to sew. Muskrat and beaver are choice furs.

I had the privilege to meet and talk with Duuklaq. She taught me a lot and made me realize that my life and hers were so opposite. A friendship was born and by sharing her thoughts, she made me feel not so different after all.

Note: I love Alaska and I have interviewed several North American natives who have passed on some fascinating stories. Made some wonderful friends, too.

All rights reserved

Maryvonne Martin
Poetry Sharings Journal

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The following comments are for "Duuklaq — Story of a North Alaskan Woman"
by MM

Now THAT was nice...I thoroughly enjoyed it.

( Posted by: Delgesu [Member] On: July 26, 2003 )

Thank you for the kind words.
Your kind words are appreciated, indeed. Thank you!

This is a true story written from an interview. I am glad that you enjoyed it.


( Posted by: MM [Member] On: July 26, 2003 )

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