Credit: Image #22323, AMNH Library, American Museum of Natural History.
A historical photo from the American Museum of Natural History that illustrates a woman skin stitching a tattoo.

Free Tattoos! Traditional Tatts for Teens at Anchorage Museum!

Suzette Brewer

The tatts are only temporary (henna), but Greenlandic tattoo artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen and Anchorage-based Iñupiaq artist Holly Mititquq Nordlum will be hosting a series of workshops this week with artists and local youth to explore and showcase the cultural significance of traditional indigenous tattooing at the Anchorage Museum in downtown Anchorage, Alaska.

“It’s a good opportunity to get kids interested in culture,” said Mititquq Nordlum, who will be getting a tattoo design from Jacobsen, utilizing the traditional technique called skin-stitching. “I’m also excited to get a traditional tattoo – no one is certified in this technique in Alaska anymore.”

Facial and hand tattooing were common throughout the Arctic until western religion censured the practice at the turn of the 20th century. Now, a growing number of indigenous people from Greenland to Alaska have begun to use traditional tattooing as a method for reclaiming their cultures. Drawing inspiration from the Anchorage Museum collections, Jacobsen and Nordlum will examine traditional tattoo designs and techniques.

Mititquq Nordlum said she has wanted a traditional tattoo for a while but it took working with the Tupik Mi program through the museum and finding Sialuk Jacobsen to make it happen.

Tupik Mi (Iñupiaq for “tattoo people”) is part of the Anchorage Museum’s Urban Intervention Series of Polar Lab that aims to empower youth through healthy creative expression.The Anchorage Museum’s Urban Interventions program is about empowering teenagers through healthy, creative expression. The program, according to the museum’s public relations manager Laura Carpenter, is “about trying something new, exploring a side of culture and history they might not have thought about before, and trying their own designs.”

Nordlum is assuring those curious that the teens will not be getting real tattoos,‘The teens, she added, will only be doing henna tattoos.”

Skin-Stitched Tattoos Presentation

7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, Anchorage Museum, 625 C Street

In this presentation, Greenlandic tattoo artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen and Iñupiaq artist Holly Mititquq Nordlum discuss pathways to cultural empowerment for indigenous youth by exploring the rich heritage of traditional tattooing.

Tattoo Workshop for Teens

3 to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, Anchorage Museum, 625 C Street

Teenagers learn about tupik mi (Iñupiaq for “tattoo people”), explore the rich heritage of traditional tattooing and study traditional graphic designs found in historical objects in the Anchorage Museum collection.

Skin-Stitched Tattoo Demo

2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, Above the Rest Tattoo, 916 Ingra St.

In this demonstration, Greenlandic tattoo artist Maya Sialuk Jacobsen uses skin-stitched techniques to tattoo Iñupiaq artist Holly Mititquq Nordlum.

The Anchorage Museum is the largest museum in Alaska and one of the 10 most visited attractions in the state. The museum’s mission is to connect people, expand perspectives and encourage global dialogue about the North and its distinct environment. Learn more at


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