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Paul Tiulana

June 21, 1921 - June 17, 1994

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Alaska Native Paul Tiulana was a leader in the preservation of Inupiat traditions, including ivory carving, mask making, singing and drumming. Photograph by Kathy James, National Council for the Traditional Arts
Paul Tiulana, photograph by Kathy James, National Council for the Traditional Arts
Inupiat mask by Paul Tiulana, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts and Alaska State Council on the Arts
Inupiat mask by Paul Tiulana, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts and Alaska State Council on the Arts
Inupiat mask by Paul Tiulana, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts and Alaska State Council on the Arts
Paul Tiulana, lead singer and drummer, 1982, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts and Alaska State Council on the Arts
Inupiat King Island Wolf Dance, 1982, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts and Alaska State Council on the Arts
Inupiat King Island Wolf Dance, 1982, courtesy National Endowment for the Arts and Alaska State Council on the Arts
Walrus mask by Paul Tiulana, carved and painted cottonwood, 14" high, 1988. Photograph by Michel Monteaux, courtesy Museum of International Folk Art (a unit of the Museum of New Mexico)
Inupiat King Island masks by Paul Tiulana, photograph by Chris Arend, courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts
Raven mask by Paul Tiulana, carved and painted pine, 1988, 12 1/2" high. Photograph by Michel Monteaux, courtesy Museum of International Folk Art (a Unit of the Museum of New Mexico)
Paul Tiulana, skin boat project, courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts
Paul Tiulana, skin boat project, courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts
Paul Tiulana (right), skin boat project, courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts
Paul Tiulana (right), skin boat project, courtesy Alaska State Council on the Arts

Paul Tiulana was an Inupiat Native and was taught at an early age how to survive in nature, how to hunt and where to go on the ice floes to look for seals. In addition, he learned to mark moving ice, shore ice and mainland ice to help understand drifting patterns and other necessities of living on remote King Island in the Bering Strait, just off the Alaskan Seward Peninsula.

Tiulana started going to school on King Island when he was 9 years of age. That same year, his father died and his uncle, John Olarrana, became his mentor. Under his tutelage, Tiulana grew up to become a leader in the preservation of Inupiat traditions. He was an accomplished ivory carver, mask maker, singer and drummer. He made the perpetuation of the culture and heritage of the King Islanders a major concern, and he devoted much of his life to this work.

The King Island Eskimos were forced to leave their island in the 1950s and were resettled in Nome, Anchorage and other locations in Alaska. Tiulana taught carving classes and workshops for the Native organizations that serve Anchorage. He was a member of the King Island dancers for more than forty years and served as their leader starting in 1956. He toured extensively with this group throughout Alaska and in the lower United States. He spearheaded a project to build a traditional skin boat, or umiak, in 1982, and he played a key role in the revival of the ceremonial Wolf Dance, which was finally performed in 1982 for the first time in more than fifty years.

In 1983, Tiulana was named Citizen of the Year by the statewide Alaska Federation of Natives for his work in promoting cultural heritage. Rarely had a civic award of this nature been presented to a practicing artist. He was an exemplary craftsman, a vigorous and subtle dancer and an expressive singer. He knew and could teach the survival crafts that were once so essential to the quality of human life in the Arctic, skills still vital to the maintenance and dignity among Native populations. On completing his skin boat, a labor of many years, he wrote, "I have been taking a walk in the past." But throughout his life, he was firmly situated in the present, sustaining for his contemporaries and descendants the traditional values and complex aesthetics of the Inupiat Eskimo people.

Bibliography
Fienup-Riordan, Ann. The Living Tradition of Yup'ik Masks Agayuliyararput: Our Way of Making Prayer. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996.
Tiulana, Paul, and Vivian Senungetuk. Wise Words of Paul Tiulana: An Inupiat Alaskan's Life. Danbury, Connecticut: Franklin Watts, 1998.
Senungetuk, Vivian, and Paul Tiulana. A Place for Winter: Paul Tiulana's Story. Anchorage: CIRI Foundation, 1987.

Watch

Masters of Traditional Arts kiosk video, produced by Documentary Arts

Listen

Paul Tiulana, recorded live at the 1984 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts

Paul Tiulana, recorded live at the 1984 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., courtesy National Endowment for the Arts