EPISODE 10 – ALASKA
Written and directed by Sonia Bonspille-Boileau
Marjorie Tahbone, an Alaskan artist of Inupiaq heritage, was first among the living women of her family to get her traditional chin tattoo. Because no one was practicing the tattooing art at the time, she had to get her markings from a non-Indigenous artist in Fairbanks. Significant as the experience was, it ignited in Marjorie a desire to revive the practice for her community. Following this desire, she took up the tools and the old methods and became a full-fledged traditional tattooist working in the Inupiaq tradition. Thanks to Marjorie and other culture bearers across the North, the tradition of inking women’s skin to mark major life events and to symbolize spiritual beliefs is once again a part of Indigenous life in the region.
Marjorie Tahbone was born and raised in Nome, Alaska. Throughout her childhood, her family led a subsistence lifestyle, living off the land and sea like their ancestors did. Proud of her cultural heritage as a member of the Inupiaq people, she entered and won the 2011 edition of Miss Indian World held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the age of 22. This event made her a culture bearer for her people, and it was this role that led her to take up the art of traditional tattooing, a practice that was nearly lost due to colonization.