Alaskan Native Fashion Designers and Models Featured in Anchorage Museum Exhibit

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Alaska Native models walked a red carpet to show off the work of Alaska Native designers during the Far North Fashion Show at the Anchorage Museum on Thursday.

The event was part of the Arctic Encounter Symposium, a two-day conference in Anchorage that this week brought together hundreds of people from the Lower 48 and circumpolar north.

“The Far North Fashion Show is all about celebrating the arts and helping people realize, perhaps for the first time, just how rich Far North fashion and design really is,” said Rachel Kallander, Director Arctic Encounter Executive.

People gathered around an elevated red-carpeted stage in the middle of the museum’s atrium and cheered as about 20 models walked by. Dozens of additional spectators leaned out from second-story balconies to view.

The event is part of the conference’s focus on Arctic culture, marrying Indigenous traditions, high fashion and contemporary social commentary. Nome’s Crystal Toolie modeled four looks. It was her first experience at a fashion show as a model or a spectator.

“I thought it was so awesome to be able to see Alaska Native artists and their work, and have it promoted and shown,” she said. “There were traditional outfits all the way to evening wear. It was beautiful.”

Some designers took the opportunity to make pointed statements. Siqiniq Maupin wore a knee-length kuspik with “LAND BACK” sewn in colorful letters on the back. Ruth Łchav’aya K’isen Miller created her own design, an envelope created from fabric and glue that read “Endi’ina ya bach’a’ina? In the Dena’ina Athabaskan language, the words mean “Where have our loved ones gone,” she said.

“We know that with the onset of colonization as well as with extractive capitalism, we have seen an increase in violence against our people, not only through the boarding school systems and genocide, but even now through the disproportionate rate at which our Indigenous women and our two-spirited parents are being raped, abused and murdered,” Miller said.

“It is our responsibility as Indigenous women to tell our story as loudly as possible,” she said.

Arctic Encounter, an annual conference, brings together policy experts, officials and opinion leaders from countries in the region. The conference runs until Friday.

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