Moments in Rie's life, Some New, Some Old!

   
Just like her watercolors, her writing and sketches are from her heart.  They tell stories of real life in a colorful, humorous,  loveing way.  Rie's art often expresses the lighter side of the heavier side of life.


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From ~ January 1954 National Geographic
Rie Munoz King Island Adventures
 


King Island Dots the Bering Sea
 Only 2 1/2 square miles in area, the island lies 85 miles northwest of Nome, Alaska, and 110 miles south of the Arctic Circle.  A village of 150 Eskimos perched on its southern cliff.

Rie went to King Island with her husband Juan in 1951 to teach to the Eskimo children. Few of the 150 inhabitants spoke English, so teaching was a challenge. Practically no-one would go to this rock, frozen in the middle of the Bering Sea, but Juan's photographs document their adventure.

 

Rie Munoz Cuts and Eats Muktuk Eskimo Style
 Rie Munoz made her own cloth parka cover.  Her dogs are family pets.  Eskimos leave their dogs to forage on King Island when they go to Nome for he summer.  A mournful chorus of howls marks their departure.




Hunters in Oomiak Pushing Through Small Icebergs



An Eskimo Walks His Husky with Ukivok Village in Background



Climbing the Stairs to School



Hunters Scouting for Whales and Walrus

 

 


A Village's Entire Population Rides North Star Home for Winter
 Eskimos who have spent summer in Nome return to isolated Ukivok village to face long, dark nights.  They support themselves by hunting seal and walrus, and catching fish and crab.  Here Rie Munoz and her husband shared the islanders' lonely life for nine months. Walrus-hide hunting boats (Umiaks) on the ship's deck will carry supplies ashore.  Landings can be dangerous, for the village has no beach.
Sea ice will form quickly early in December.

 


Eskimo Children Play Hopscotch on a 
Narrow Ledge Above Ukivok Village

 Winter home of 150 people, rocky King Island lies 35 miles west of mainland Alaska in the Bering Sea.  Anchored ice clings to the shore.  Rie Munoz and her husband taught school in the building at lower right

 


With Alaska's Flag Hastily Flown, Rie Munoz 
Signals a Plane onto Ukivok's Red-streamered Runway

 King Islanders chopped away pressure ridges on sea ice to smooth a 1,200-foot emergency strip.  When turbulent air prevented a landing, the pilot dropped supplies from 1,000 feet.  Some, falling on floes, drifted to sea.  At the time of Rie's visit, only three airplane landings had ever been made on King Island.

 


King Island Fishermen Chisel Holes in Sea Ice;
with the Scoop They Remove Chips from Bitterly Cold Water

Bits of bright toothbrush handles serve as lures for bullheads.  Barbless hooks permit mittened fishermen to remove catches without exposing fingers to the cold.  Crabs, clutching bait on hookless lines, must be pulled up gently; they let go if they touch the sides of the hole.

 


After the Exciting Walrus Shoot
Comes the Tiresome Task of Butchering

Walrus, shot in mass attacks as they ride north on ice pans, provide King Islanders with hides, meat, and ivory.  Here two animals are stretched on the ice, another is rope-anchored, and a 200-pound calf is dragged half out of water.

 


An Eskimo Woman Splits Walrus Hide with
Steady Hand and Sharp Knife

 Outer skins cover umiaks, the Eskimos' big canoes; the inner layer goes into roofing.  Only old hands are trusted with the delicate splitting job.  This mother has had glasses fitted in Nome.  Dogs and sleds have already hauled away the walrus meat.

 

 


This Time Only Small Bullheads Were Caught in the
Hole Made with Chisel and Scoop

Like her sisters, this islander wears a gay cover over her reindeer-skin parka.  Mukluks, her ornamented sealskin boots, are waterproof for wading.

 

When the Hunters Return with Tons of Walrus Meat,
Wives Get Busy Cleaning the Skins

 Hides strewing the ice must be fleshed and split.  Meat and blubber are stored in a cave, a natural home freezer.  Here children lie on a rock and watch the excitement.  An umiak frame awaits a walrus-hide cover.  Gasoline for outboard motors is stored in the drums.

 

As Women Pare Blubber from Sealskins, Hungry Dogs
Stand Watch to Gobble Any Morsel Thrown Aside

 Women flesh skins with the ulu, a broad steel blade shaped like a wedge of pie.  Their splitting boards are heirlooms, generations old.  This skin will be converted into soft, water-resistant boots; the carcass will be eaten; the oil will be burned in lamps.

 


Nine-year-old Girls Take Baby Sisters Pickaback for an Airing
 After wintering on King Island, they have returned to Nome, where their parents carve walrus ivory for sale to travelers.  Most islanders own temporary homes just outside Nome in a settlement nicknamed "King Island Village."

 


Dogs, Boys, and Men Drag Home a 300-pound 
Bearded Seal Shot on the Ice

Sealing begins when the first ice forms.  Most big bearded seals are caught late in the season.  Their hides provide leather for boots and kayak covers; intestines are converted into waterproof parka covers.

 


Villagers Returning from a Seal Hunt
Unload Gear and Turn Over Boats

 Every hunter in Ukivok went on winter sealing expeditions; almost every man bagged one or two.  Rie Munoz and her husband taught in the big white school in the center.  Ukivok's church perches at upper right.  Household waste smudges the snow below the stilt-legged houses.  Fresh water comes from clean surfaces higher on the cliff.  Offshore ice served as a baseball field for boys.

 


Hunters Bag a Rare Prize, a Beluga, or White Whale
 King Islanders harpooned only one or two whales in a season.  they eat the savory skin and a layer of blubber.  Lean meat they feed to the dogs.  The Arctic Ocean's white whales migrate as far south as Cook Inlet.  Only adults are entirely white; newborn calves are gray.

 

Eskimo Woman's Teeth Worn
From Chewing Sealskins

 Chewing sealskins for soft footwear has worn this woman's teeth nearly to the gums.  Following the birth of her first child, blue lines were tattooed on her chin.  Today, the custom is no longer practiced.

 

 

  "Reindeer Roundup"

A series of sketches by Rie Muñoz Circa 1960

     Rie Muñoz was commissioned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to document the Reindeer Round-up on Nunivak Island in the Bearing Sea  “Circa 60s” to help preserve the native history and culture.  These sketches were made near the village of Mckoriak.  She arrived in the desolate area to find the beaches strewn with Reindeer antlers.  The Reindeer are actually the same as a Caribou only they call them Reindeer after they have been domesticated by the natives.  It appears that the domestication process consists of removing the antlers; both male and female have antlers, and castrating the males. It is said that corrals are built and then 5 or 6 young runners were all that they used to roundup and herd the critters into the coral. The villagers would stand on either side of the corral gate and make a V shaped line and the runners would go as fast as they could and cut out a thousand or more of the wild critters and herd them into the corral. As we can see from Rie’s sketches it must have been an incredible site to see in person.

        * Rie never fails to entertain us! Come on back for more! 

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