• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 3s

For World Eskimo-Indian Olympics contestant, seal skinning brings memories of home

By Heather Hintze 8:06 PM July 19, 2014
FAIRBANKS –

It might be an unsettling sight for some but for Diane Dufour, skinning a seal is a celebration of culture and family.

“My mom taught me how to cut up seals,” Dufour reminisced. “I was the only one she taught.”

The Kaktovik native now lives in Fairbanks, where her only chance to practice her skills is at the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics.

“Cut around the flippers,” she explained. ”Some start at the head and cut down.”

Fur seal is a main staple for Alaska Natives in coastal communities.

“A lot of people love seal. It’s a different taste.” Dufour said. ”It’s yummy!”

Every part of the animal will be used when the competition is over; the fat gets made into seal oil, the meat will go in the freezer and the skin will likely be used for clothing.

The goal of the contest is to remove the skin and blubber without too much of the meat on it.

The four seals used this year were donated by Barrow resident Charlie Brower. Because of the limited number of seals, last year’s winners are automatically entered if they chose to compete again. After that, the eldest entrants are selected to round out the competition.

They work quickly with as much precision as they can, slicing through the thick fur and fat.

Dufour’s ulus were handed down from her mother. She wished she touched them up before she started, though.

“I’m tired. It’s a lot of work cutting it up with an ulu that’s not sharp,” she said. “It makes it a lot harder.”

She came in second place for the second year in a  row. She’s worn out from all the work, but didn’t lose her sense of humor.

“Want a hug?” she shouted to family members in the audience, holding out her hands, which were covered in blood.

For her, the time doesn’t matter; it’s really about getting back to her Inupiaq heritage.

“It reminds me of home. I enjoy going out and waiting for the guys to come home so I can start cutting up,” she said, laughing. “It’s fun.”

Then, for just a brief moment, her mood turned somber.

“It’s hard when you’re living here in town and it’s time for whaling season and hunting season, you wish you was at home,” she said.

It’s only five minutes, but for Dufour the competition brings back a lifetime of memories of the way things used to be.

 

Latest Stories

  • News

    Diversity a theme at Walker transition conference in Anchorage

    by Shannon Ballard on Nov 22, 18:42

    It would be easy to have a closed-door discussion about the critical issues that face Alaska, but Gov.-elect Bill Walker says the conversation should belong to all Alaskans. “We get the best input the more people we have involved in the process,” said Walker. There is some risk associated with doing that. The bigger risk […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Nov. 22

    by KTVA Weather on Nov 22, 18:20

    Clouds have invaded our space for the weekend with little moisture here in the Anchorage area. Daytime highs remain in the mid 30s with light winds as we head into Saturday night. Sunday brings more of the same conditions with increasing clouds across the Bowl. We’ll remain under this dry spell going into Thanksgiving. Sunshine […]

  • Sports

    UAA volleyball signs 2 Dimond players

    by KTVA Sports on Nov 22, 18:02

    A pair of Dimond Lynx are heading to the level of volleyball, but the trip is a short one.

  • News

    Government Hill gives back, continues holiday tradition for one resident

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 22, 17:02

      Putting up Christmas lights and decorations is a holiday tradition for Government Hill resident Jeff Fowler. “It started when we lived on the south end of town,” said Fowler. “One at a time, started buying them and when we moved here, new and more stuff just started showing up.“ Over the years, the grand […]

  • News

    Obama highlights Sitka School District’s efforts in technology

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 22, 13:00

    This week, the Sitka School District got a shout-out from President Barack Obama. Superintendent of Sitka Schools Mary Wegner was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, joining more than 100 superintendents from across the country gathered together at the White House for the ConnectED to the Future conference. The day-long event recognized some of the nation’s […]

  • News

    Fairbanks prisoner accused of soliciting murder

    by Associated Press on Nov 22, 12:01

    An imprisoned former chiropractor and gun dealer from Fairbanks has been accused of attempting to solicit the murder of federal officers while behind bars. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://goo.gl/VVMn92 ) reports Guy Christopher Mannino, 56, has been in prison since Oct. 2013 awaiting sentencing for federal weapons charges. The office of the U.S. Attorney says […]

  • News

    Alaska Gov.-elect Walker names full transition team

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 22, 11:47

    Gov.-elect Bill Walker has taken his first big step towards taking over the helm of outgoing Gov. Sean Parnell. Walker kicked off his transition conference Friday night at the Alaska Airlines Center. There, about 300 people showed up to hear the incoming administration’s overview of Alaska’s current financial situation. Walker was blunt in his address, saying […]

  • News

    5,000 toys to be delivered to tots around Alaska

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 22, 11:06

    Alaska Airlines and the U.S. Marines are getting into the holiday spirit and children around Alaska are reaping the benefits. Friday, Marines delivered nearly 5,000 toys to the airline’s cargo hanger to be shipped out to children across the state. As part of their annual Toys for Tots program, all of the gifts were donated […]