The original that this ulu was inspired by was collected likely in the early 1800’s from the Koniag region.
The original is refed to as a “woman’s knife” Described as a “women’s most important tool”, used for working skins, filleting fish, slicing meat and cutting up food”. Etholene collection VK 107, donations of 1834.
I find ulus empowering as we see them spanning across Alaska. They have been used since time and immemorial by indigenous people and yet we see them in many of our kitchens today. They are a symbol that links our diverse Alaskan cultures together.
The design for the new ulu was inspired by the traditional patters of our Sugpiaq ancestors, while being colored by a new symbol linking our communities together. The rainbow.
Today, amidst the covid-19 pandemic, rainbows are seen as a sign of hope. They are connecting us to each other, despite having to isolate in our own homes. We see them in business windows, living room windows and across our social medias as they attempt to bring cheer and help others cope with this difficult time. They are seen as a sign of support as we encourage each other to stay inside and flatten the curve.
The blade for this ulu is well used as it was a staple in my kitchen for the past 10 years. It has since broken from its original wooden vessel, however I could not part with it. When this project came up it seemed like an appropriate time to reuse the treasured piece that had been rendered useless.
This new ulu reminded me of many things to be aware of, one of the most importance aspects being connection, historical and present. May we all stay connected in these difficult times and if you are having a hard time, reach out to your people. You are not alone, we are all fighting this fight.