One look at Terri Lee Kuptana’s handmade parka and you’ll understand in your bones that it’s something special.
The siksik (Inuvialuktun for ground squirrel), Mother Hubbard-style coat is adorned with a wolf sunburst and wolverine trim, and black and white sealskin Delta braiding.
“I really don’t know how many siksiks are on the parka itself, but there’s a lot,” Kuptana told CBC News.
Paired with caribou mukluks, it’s no wonder why Kuptana won the best traditional dress competition in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., held online this year in celebration of National Indigenous People’s Day. The competition was an opportunity for residents to show off clothing made by friends and family, sometimes passed down through generations.
“I just wanted to showcase what our ancestors used a long time ago,” said Kuptana, on why she joined the competition. “I know it’s just beautiful.”
The parka is about 30 years old, maybe older, and was given to Kuptana by Nellie Cournoyea, a former premier of the Northwest Territories.
Kate Inuktalik from Ulukhaktok, N.W.T., made the parka. Kuptana said Inuktalik may have used some traditional techniques like in some of the colouring on the parka.
“A long time ago our ancestors would use the colourful rocks, the bright rocks, they’d smash it and dye it,” said Kuptana.
Though she isn’t sure the specific technique was used on this parka, Kuptana said “that’s what [the red] symbolizes.”
The coat provoked glowing remarks on social media.
“There were a lot of a lot of comments you know saying, ‘beautiful,’ ‘wow,’ ‘amazing,’ ‘absolutely gorgeous,’ ‘best clothing right there,'” said Kuptana.
To be sure, the parka needs a little TLC — “that’s on my to-do list,” she said. “Nellie’s going to help me.”
“First we have to try and get some siksiks,” Kuptana added. “Wish me luck.”