Strait Talk Blog

The Teller Umiaq Project

By John Weemes

Maligiaq Padilla has been working with students across the Bering Strait School District for a number of years. Initially, with the community of Koyuk restoring a traditional qayaq frame and then building a modern version based on the restored frame as a pattern. For the next few years, Maligiaq visited all of BSSD’s schools engaging the communities and inspiring students while building traditional qayaqs, paddles, hunting and training tools as well as Inuit drums.

During that time, Maligiaq worked with students in the summer at NACTEC first building traditional Greenlandic qayaqs and hunting tools. This was a blending of traditional skill acquisition and economic development activities. Most recently, Maligiaq and BSSD students learned from Vince Pikonganna by building a King Island style qayaq that has been donated to the Katirvik Cultural Center in Nome. The Teller Umiaq Project is a component of our partnership with Kawerak’s Eskimo Heritage Program and UAF’s School of Education. The SILKAT (Sustaining Indigenous Learning and Knowledge through Arts and Teaching) Project is intended to increase teacher confidence and competence to teach in and through the cultural arts while supporting students and paraprofessionals in obtaining an Alaska Type A teaching certification.