(Music by Two Dark Birds)
Tribal elder and moccasin maker Mabel Pike passed away last week. In honor of her memory, we’ve brought this piece back from the archives. She leaves us a legacy of inspiration.
Tlingit Native elder Mabel Pike first learned how to sew moccasins from her great-grandmother in the 1920s. After her village in Douglas, Alaska burned down in 1926, Mabel’s parents moved their family to Juneau, where Mabel and her sisters began selling their handcrafted Native wares.
At 91 years old, Mabel has been doing needlework all of her life. She has never been able to make her living solely from her handicrafts, but she’s not in it for the money. As a Tlingit master artist, she has taught beadwork at Stanford University and is on the board of the Alaska Native Heritage Center. With a deep-seated passion for beading, Mabel is dedicated to passing on the the traditions of her clan’s culture.
There are many clans of native peoples in Alaska. Some still live as hunter-gatherers in rural villages, carrying on the ways of their ancestors, while others live in the city, trading with friends and family for materials. By supporting indigenous artists, we sustain not only their craft, but also their knowledge and living history. This history is just as important to their local economies today as it was a hundred years ago, before Western culture was integrated into their own.
Mabel Pike sells her wares at local craft fairs or for similar work look in the Alaska Native Arts Foundation’s online shop. Read about non-profit ANAF and its founder Alice Rogoff in an earlier Etsy Blog post featuring their former gallery in NYC, Alaska House.
This piece was originally published January 18, 2011.