• 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

  • Sports

    NYO Games run smoothly thanks to numerous workers and volunteers

    by Jake Edmonds on Apr 17, 23:39

    Day two of the 2015 Native Youth Olympic Games was a success after four more events. Athletes competed in the Eskimo stick pull, the toe kick, the one-hand reach and the two-foot high kick. For volunteers who work behind the scenes, Friday was the busiest day, with Thursday and Saturday hosting just three events each. […]

  • News

    Hansen victim one step closer to being identified

    by Shannon Kemp on Apr 17, 22:53

    The DNA  of an unidentified victim of deceased serial killer Robert Hansen is now available for comparison with potential family members. Hansen led authorities to the body of a young woman at Horseshoe Lake in Palmer on April 25, 1984. Known as Jane Doe #3, or “Horseshoe Harriet”, she was buried at Anchorage Memorial Cemetery until […]

  • Weather

    Evening News Weather, April 17

    by KTVA Weather on Apr 17, 22:43

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound Increasing clouds with chance of showers on the Kenai with the heaviest and most steady rain on the eastern side of the peninsula and Prince William Sound. Snow levels are rather high. Southeast Rain showers will increase in the area overnight as some strong warm front push into the area. The […]

  • News

    Spenard Farmer’s Market set to reopen May 16

    by Dave Leval on Apr 17, 22:22

    The Spenard Farmer’s Market will open for business in May in the Chilkoot Charlie’s parking lot, in the same spot where it started five years ago. The new board of directors made the announcement Friday. The previous board canceled the event in February after members said they got burned out from it. Dozens of volunteers […]

  • News

    Alaska March unemployment rate stands at 6.5 percent

    by Associated Press on Apr 17, 20:54

    Alaska labor officials say the state’s unemployment rate in March was 6.5 percent, a slight increase over February’s rate of 6.3 percent. The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development says the latest seasonally adjusted rate compares with the national rate of 5.5 percent. Last year, Alaska’s seasonably adjusted rate for March was 6.9 percent. […]

  • News

    Historic Motherlode Lodge left to burn in Hatcher Pass, considered suspicious

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 17, 20:31

    The Motherlode lodge in Hatcher Pass was left to burn after catching fire Friday evening. Firefighters were on scene at the fire, but were only there to direct traffic away for public safety. Norm McDonald with the Alaska Division of Forestry says the building was outside any fire service area. McDonald said “it’s lucky” there […]

  • News

    Legislature unanimously passes bill granting volunteer firefighters liability protections

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Apr 17, 18:25

    Both the Senate and House have unanimously passed a bill protecting volunteer and university firefighters from civil liability. Employees of municipal fire departments are already protected under state law, but Sen. John Coghill says Senate Bill 43 could help others. “Liability protections should not be exclusive to employees of fire departments operated by municipalities and […]

  • News

    20 years later, wounds remain from Oklahoma City bombing

    by CBS News on Apr 17, 18:20

    Timothy McVeigh was executed for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City 20 years ago this weekend. 168 people, including 19 children, were killed. It was the deadliest act of homegrown terror in U.S. history. Nearly 700 were hurt. Some suffered the kinds of wounds that never heal. The scenes from April […]