First Peoples Celebrates: Susan Malutin

The spirit and wisdom of a woman determined to rediscover a culture buried long ago will be honored in her hometown later this month.

First Peoples Fund will celebrate the work of Susan Malutin in a Jennifer Easton Community Spirit Award Ceremony at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 28, at the Native Village of Afognak’s Dig Afognak Camp Site in Alaska.

The Community Spirit Awards are given each year to recognize the exceptional passion, wisdom and purpose recipients bring to their art and the communities they serve. Malutin, a Native Alaskan, uses fur and beads to create traditional and contemporary clothing, including mittens, hats, dancing boots, slippers and infant boots.

Malutin’s work, which has helped revive a traditional culture long ago buried by oppression and Russian influence, is an example of what one person can do, said First Peoples Fund President Lori Pourier.

“Susan has led by example, and demonstrated that diligence and heart can change a community,” Pourier said. “We are honored to gather with her and those in her community to celebrate the purposeful way she has worked to preserve their culture and heritage.”

Malutin learned the traditional sewing art form through several years of research and a patient search to find elders in nearby villages who remembered, and were willing to teach her, the traditional sewing techniques from long ago.

After methodically learning the skills, Malutin traveled around the world to find museums that carried her ancestor’s clothing so she could learn more. For 30 years, she has honed the skills and worked with kids, young adults and adults in her community to pass on what she has learned.

Her spirit of perseverance is as much a lesson to the community as the actual skills, said April G. L. Counceller, language manager at the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository.

“Susie is a true inspiration and living embodiment of our Alutiiq cultural values,” Counceller said. “She simply lives with a deep commitment to sharing Alutiiq culture every day of her life.”