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Faye Ongtowasruk

Wales, Alaska is a very remote area that lies in the northwestern most part of the United States and many interesting things happen there. Wales has one street with no roads leading in or out of the village. You need to fly in and out in a small plane. It has one store and a small school which houses grades K-12 with only about 60 kids. There are about 140-150 people in the village. This is an extremely small town that is surrounded by miles of beautiful countryside and the Bering Sea. Faye is also a craftswoman; she makes dolls out of sealskin and carved ivory faces. She makes parkas, leggings and mukluks. These are the traditional boots of the Eskimos. They are made out of the different skins of local animals, such as, seal, caribou, and reindeer. Also used are ground squirrel, fox, and birds. Traditionally the skins are chewed on by the maker for a number of reasons. Faye used to chew the skins before scraping the fat off in order to soften the leather. This would crimp the edges, and make the skins pliable before sewing. She would also chew on the sinew, which comes from dried animal tendons and is used to sew the boots together. Chewing the sinew would make the fibers stay together and go through the skins easier while sewing. Occasionally they may be sewn with dental floss, or waxed thread, also called artificial sinew. Almost every part of the animals that are killed is used, whether for food, clothing or tools. Faye's house growing up used whale rib bones as the framework. She teaches Eskimo dance and Inupiaq language classes. She had to quit school in the 4th grade because her parents needed her to help with the reindeer. The life of a villager is difficult as the winters are long, dark and cold. Food is not easy to come by. The people can1t fish during the coldest part of winter as the Strait freezes up. Supplies have to be shipped in. People in the village tend to not live as long as our grandparents due to the trials of daily life.

Thanks to Mr. Forbes I was able to speak with Faye and learn as much as I have passed on here. She is a very interesting and hardworking woman, I would like to meet her in person someday.

Faye Ongtowasruk is a very important person in the village. She owns the reindeer herd. She has also helped out in the school and church for many years. She has taught the children the traditional dances and language.

Faye makes these dolls as well. She uses seal and reindeer for her materials when she makes the dolls. The face is made from walrus ivory.

Faye also makes some amazing crafts. She is pictured here with Mukluks, the traditional boots.They are made from reindeer or seal skin.

This is a cache, with the Bering Sea in the background. The cache is used to hang and dry meats, seal, walrus, or fish.

Pictured are Julia and Olive. Olive interviewed Faye.

A picture of Main St. The village has pretty much looked the same for many years.

In back of Wales, is Razorback. Razorback overlooks the village with an awe.

They finally got the critters into the pen. Thye use 4 wheelers and even a helicopter today when they go out into the tundra to bring them in. In the "old days", Faye and her helpers went by foot.

The boat went after a single reindeer. Ther were prettu skittish. They are also very good swimmers.

Here is another picture of an umiak shell. This is also where Faye was brought up in a traditional house (Notice the whale ribs in a circle in the background).

The Reindeer Herd! This was at the roundup. The reindeer did not want to go into the pen. There were almost in, when they escaped. Eventually they got them in. This picture was taken approximately 2-3 A.M.