Arctic Culture Lab

Sustaining Coastal Sami Future

Sustaining Coastal Sami Future – part 1: Sealskin workshop in Billavuotna/Norway, September 2021
supported by NORA and NAPA.

The workshop in Billefjord was a successful meeting between knowledge bearers from Sapmi and Kaaallit Nunaat/Greenland as well as hunters and very motivated as well as talented seamsters/seamstresses from both places. It was important to show the participants the whole process from the animal to the skin and later on to the products. In two 5-days workshops that often ended late in the evenings, the participants learned and practiced:
– how to butcher a seal, what parts of the meat and intestines can be used for consumation
– how to take care of the fresh skin
– how to clean the skin from blubber with an ulu
– how to clean the skin from the membrane
– washing and sewing of holes
– washing and mounting on trying rack
– washing and streching skins on trying rack/repeated cleaning streched skins from fat
– how to prepare seal meat (5 recipes)
– transferring patterns to a skin/adapting patterns to needed size
– sewing skin, stitch-by-stitch-sewing
– garments made from seal skin: mittens, headgear, headband, babyshoes, pouches, waistcoat, eyeclass case …
– decoration made from seal skin: christmas decoration, luggage tags, key tags, balls, small seals

Overwhelming interest
96 hours after the first announcment of the workshops have been announced, both workshop have been filled up with the maximal amount of participants (6 in workshop 1 and 10 in workshop 2). The partcipants came from an area covering almost entire Finnmark

Social impact
Since the idea of this workshop was based on mutual learning as well as sharing histories. To achieve that, the Greenlandic partners travelled in total 1400km and visited coastal sami places lke Lakselv, Havøysund, Selvika, Kokelv, Smørfjord but also had the chance to join the marking and slaughter of reindeer and visited Karasjok.
The workshop place at Mearrasiida became an open house where every day people from the surroundig villages came to visit, to talk, to share and to learn about the workshops. We always had a cup of coffee prepared that was ready to go with a piece of seal meat or a cookie. During those visits many people asked for buying seal skin products, but the participants haven`t been willing to do so. During the process a strong ownership to the skins as well as products appeared that went along with a growing proudness. During the workshop, a closed facebook group was created that is still in daily use. Here all participants share pictures of products they finished at home as well as information and recipes and ask for advise.
Longterm results
The participants are motivated and in the planing to start up a seal skin sewing group with the aim to develop small products from seal kin. Mearrasiida is also looking nto options to publish a book about seal as a local ressource, its harvest and use.

We left Bilefjord with the feeling, that this project is an important impuls for the Coastal sami area and that further actions could be taken to strengthen the awareness of seal as a cultural bearer and commodity in Coastal Sapmi.