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Traditional mitten workshop planned in Taloyoak

A new project is set to take place in Taloyoak, with the goal of teaching youth how to make traditional mittens.
Seal mittens made by Breanna Mannilaq. Photo courtesy of Breanna Mannilaq

A new project is set to take place in Taloyoak, with the goal of teaching youth how to make traditional mittens.

Breanna Mannilaq is organizing a workshop, which is set to start on Jan. 7. The event was supposed to start earlier this year, but Covid delayed the process.

Mannilaq says that growing up, she was surrounded by people who knew all about traditional crafts such as this one.

“When I was in kindergarten, the staff of Netsilik School in Taloyoak would make us do the patterns ourselves from a very young age,” she recalls. “Our principal at that time always made sure a lot of our culture was passed down to us by filling the curriculum with activities that gave us a lot of knowledge. I also learned bits from my mother. It’s hard to say who I originally learned it from because there were so many people doing it when I was growing up.”

She’s afraid the growing influence of social media might replace cultural activities such as fashioning mitts. For that reason, she has decided to focus on older groups of students, to build a knowledgeable force in her community.

“The idea is to try and get youth involved, not only in making the mittens, but also reconnecting and helping each other,” she says. “After Covid hit, we’re all a bit more distant and disconnected. There are so many trends on the internet; our identity is slowly going away. I wanted to bring it back. I want to give the workshop to the older youth especially, because I want them to be able to teach it themselves to their family and friends,” explains Mannilaq.

After promoting the project in her community, Mannilaq heard from numerous interested individuals between ages 11 and 19. The workshop, funded by Northern Youth Abroad (NYA), is set to start when the organizer receives the crafting supplies at the beginning of 2023.

NYA is offering grants for other community projects for anyone interested in making a positive impact in their community.

Mannilaq says she’s excited to start the workshop and that “this will be a good opportunity to slow down for our culture, and it is a good way to refresh the mind.”