The Alutiiq Museum has released Pinguat, a 17-minute documentary film produced in collaboration with Josh Branstetter of Branstetter Films. Pinguat follows the journey of 13 Alutiiq beaders who convened in Kodiak last November. Under the mentorship of June Pardue, the group recreated a rare set of women’s ceremonial clothing—a beaded headdress, cuffs, and sash—collected on Kodiak in 1872. Artists from Kodiak, Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna valley, Seattle, and Texas participated. While they counted, knotted, and sewed, Branstetter recorded their work.
“We are so pleased with this film,” said April Counceller, the Alutiiq Museum’s executive director. “Josh really understands the spirit of our project. You can feel the deep respect the artists have for the regalia, their excitement about studying the pieces, and their cultural pride. He captured Alutiiq artists living their culture. It’s beautiful film.”
The ancestral garments are currently visiting Kodiak as part of a long-term partnership between Koniag, Inc., the Alutiiq Museum, and the Musée Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France to study and share the remarkable collections of French anthropologist Alphonse Pinart. Pinart kayaked around Kodiak from November 1871 to May 1872, visiting Alutiiq communities, collecting objects, and recording stories. His collection contains many rare ceremonial objects, including three coordinated sets of women’s beaded garments. One sets traveled back to Kodiak in 2018 to provide inspiration for a new generation of beaders. The museum developed a project to document and share beading traditions around the loan.
To tell the project’s story, Branstetter weaves together interviews with each artist, footage from the workshop, historical details, pictures of other beaded items in the Alutiiq Museum’s collections, Alutiiq language terms, and both Alutiiq and French music.
“Josh shows how our ancestors creations hold cultural knowledge. When you combine people familiar with an art and pieces made by an ancestors, the result is very special. Artists are able to learn directly from the designs, material choices, constructing techniques of a traditional culture bearer. Walls tumble, confidence builds, and inspiration soars.”
The US Bureau of Indian Affair, Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, Musée Boulogne-Sur-Mer, and Alutiiq Heritage Foundation generously supported the development of the film. Pinguat can be viewed on the museum’s website at https://alutiiqmuseum.org/research/beading.
The Alutiiq Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and culture of the Alutiiq, an Alaska Native tribal people. Representatives of Kodiak Alutiiq organizations govern the museum with funding from charitable contributions, memberships, grants, contracts, and sales.