My name is Peter Williams, I live in Alaska and am half Yupik Eskimo and half European blend. Alaska Natives are exempt from the United State’s Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and are allowed to hunt marine mammals for food, clothing or to make arts and crafts to sell. Hunting, sewing with and eating seals and sea otters has really impacted my life in positive ways. It has helped me discover myself as an Alaska Native and helped me along my spiritual path of sobriety and healing – by connecting me to my ancestry, nature and the world of both the living and the dead. Sewing with the animals I have hunted, selling those garments, sharing what I do and my culture all grounds and connects me to the Universe. I work under my designer label Ata, which is Yupik for “let me see”.
The Russian lead sea otter fur trade of the 1700s brought alcohol, disease, colonization and various forms of oppression to Alaska Natives. The near extinction of sea otters parallels the near extinction of Alaska Native Cultures. As the sea otter populations are revitalized so is the ancient relationship Alaska Natives have with the sea otter. Only Alaska Natives can hunt and work with sea otters, we now have theoretical monopoly over an industry that brought us so much pain. It has come full circle and this amazing opportunity for healing and empowerment on a spiritual, cultural and economic level inspires me to bring the modern Alaska Native sea otter fur trade out of a niche tourist market and into the high end fur fashion world.
There are lots of misconceptions out there on the population levels of marine mammals. Most people do not know that sea otters are not listed as an endangered species, and that the Federal government estimates over 70,000 sea otters in Alaska. Hunting is sustainable and respectful as we carry on traditions that echo thousands of years of an intimate relationship with marine mammals. A relationship that is the foundation to who we are as a people and one that has been celebrated for over 7,000 years.
Cultural sharing and education is an important facet to my work. We all come from a Tribal people. We are all creatures of the sea. No matter what your ethnic background is, your ancestors were very successful hunters and fishers connected to the environment. Their harvesting skills are largely why you are here today. As a species we are losing the very relationship we had with nature that perpetuated us through millions of years of evolution. Both ourselves, and the environment, are suffering from this disconnect. I find much joy in sharing what I do for a living and inspiring others to get connected with their roots and have a Spiritual relationship with nature. This fall I will be making a trip to the East coast to give presentations on my work, network and promote the release of the “Peter Williams Vest”.
The Peter Williams Vest is composed of seals and sea otters that I hunted. The fur is all hand sewed. Each stitch, cut and curve carries the spiritual relationship I have with the animal, even before I meets it and ask it to give its life to me. Respect, sustainability and transformation is embodied in the utilitarian reversible design – representing the modern time in which I live while walking in the footsteps of my ancestors and staying true to my culture. For the past, the present, the future, the living world and the Spirit World, are all interconnected.
– See more at: http://www.wearefur.com/about-fur/fur-farming-and-trapping/famer-blog/day-life-trapper#sthash.eVCVr8oc.dpuf
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