The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 5

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Play With Fire cover

5 – The hunter’s tunic

The votes are in, and although there was a strong minority in favor of the morel mushroom, in the end Arlene’s comment made the case for this fifth object.

…It was made of caribou hide, tanned to ivory. Red, white and blue beads were worked around the collar in a pattern that sort of resembled the Russian Orthodox cross, or maybe those were birds, Kate wasn’t sure. The seams at shoulder, armhole and underarms were heavily fringed and hung with dyed porcupine quills. Dentalium shells gleamed from a sort of a breastplate, and something in the order in which they were sewn to the hide hinted at the shape of a fish. You could see the fish better if you didn’t look straight at the design.

In 1988 the Smithsonian mounted an exhibit called “Crossroads of Continents,” a collection of old and new artifacts from Native life from Siberia and Alaska. They brought it to the Anchorage Museum, and I went back to see it I don’t know how many times. I bought the book, too, which you will pry from my cold, dead hands. It’s the best written and best illustrated exhibit book I’ve ever seen.

Crossroads of Continents

Regalia, harpoons, visors, grease bowls, blankets, baskets, drums, masks, and the stories behind them all–it was the class in Native art and technology they should have taught us in school and never did. And yes, it’s where I saw my first hunter’s tunic, which was the inspiration for the hunter’s tunic in Play With Fire.

hunter's tunic


kate21-cover-artThe 21st Kate Shugak novel, coming May 6, 2017.


23 thoughts on “The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 5

  1. Marty says:

    “The issue is subsistence “. With that statement, it has to be the moose. However…Emaa is the substance of this book, so she must be a strong contender as well. What to do, what to do. I’ll stick with the moose. Loved this book by the way. One of my favorites!

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  2. Peggy Belew says:

    A red beaded jacket with black tux pants. Couldn’t be anything but those. Kate shopping at Nordstroms and then Jack, Johnny and Mutt’s reaction to her in the clothes is great reading, or as they say on the MasterCard commerical “Priceless”. When the outfit appeared again, Jim’s reaction was just as good.

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  3. Marty says:

    Love the red outfit too but this is such a meaty book. I think the outfit is more effective with Jim and to bring down Erland Bannister. ” The issue is subsistence”. Kate bringing down the moose in her front yard and then telling the”story” at the AFN is what’s priceless in my opinion.

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  4. Susan Doran says:

    Yes, it has to be the moose after Kate getting her one moose in her front yard. She uses it for the basis of her speech at the AFN after her grandmother took ill and went back to the hotel and Kate over comes her nerves and has the crowd in her hands by the end.

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  5. gayle says:

    Definately the moose. The red jacket outfit was a wow-moment, but it truly doesn’t define Kate like her ability to bring down her own moose, and not only use it for her own subsistence means, but also as a strong narrative of her cultures subsistence rights.

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  6. Penny says:

    The red beaded jacket most definitely. Jack, Johnny, and Mutt’s reaction was riotous, but best of all was Kate’s Grandmother’s reaction. Emaa was speechless – probably for the first time in that old broad’s life. For that reason alone, the jacket is the winner hands down. As for the moose, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one in the Shugak series – let alone one on an Alaska highway.

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  7. Leah says:

    Bugle beads for sure. The section was so Kate & so representative of her internal war. I haven’t read that particular book in several years but that scene is so etched in my mind and it still entertains me.
    It has to be the bugle beads.

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  8. Megan says:

    This is such an object-rich book (and I never like referring to living/formerly living things as objects, but it’s the only category that fits in this context). I would say it’s a toss-up for me. The moose is important as much as a cultural imperative as a source of food (“Ladies and gentlemen, the issue is subsistence”), and the butchering scene was evocative for me of my own cultural memories (cattle ranching roundup weekends). The copy machine in Johnny’s bedroom was what really made the point that Jane isn’t just a bitchy scorned ex-wife and terrible mother, she’s actually genuinely evil in multiple aspects of her life. And the bugle beads hammered home the idea throughout this book that the trappings, the outside appearance is all that matters to the general public, that first impressions are the ones that matter, a fact carried through the other books with significant scenes in Anchorage (and of course any scene involving the Bannister family). So I’m . . . not voting, I guess.

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  9. Kathryn says:

    Ekaterina. Because of this: “I can’t be sad, Jack. She’s with me right here, right now. Here -” she touched her temple “-in my head, and here -” she touched her breast “- in my heart, and here -” she touched her stomach “- in my gut. Emaa lives on inside of me, and in every other person she ever touched. While we live, she lives.”

    Emaa is Kate’s soul. Emaa is this book. She is everywhere in it. Kate fights her, but knows Emaa needs her, loves her, and will always be there. I love this passage because it reminds me of my own mother who died on Good Friday of this year.

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  10. Susan Doran says:

    Megan you make some wonderful points. God, I love the Danamanics. They are so informative and interesting. Kathryn I so agree with you. I love this passage too. It is so beautiful. It always makes me sad and yet joyful that our loved ones are never far away but a part of us. It is like they say ‘No person is truly gone once they are remembered by those left living’. I am so sorry about your mother. Thinking of you.

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  11. There is nothing more quintessential than Kate bringing down a moose in her front yard! Even she could not believe the luck she had that morning. The work that it takes to process it, the bonding with Emma, talking about it at the AFN… The feeling it stirred in me was so tangible I could almost taste it. The moose gets my vote BUT the notorious ‘outfit’ gets a close second.

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  12. Judy Voelker says:

    I was going to vote for the Conference but after reading Kathryn’s comment I am switching to Emaa. That is the heart of this book — relationship with her Emaa.

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  13. Arlene Fell says:

    This book has a lot of my favorite scenes in the entire series: Kate shooting and then she and Emaa butchering the moose; the Nordstrom scene; Kate’s speech at the AFN conference. Plus I absolutely love the opening and closing with The Woman Who Keeps The Tides and Calm Water’s Daughter.
    Bearing in mind what I said last month about this being a history of Kate, and if the object in question can be non-material, I would vote for the speech, as it says more about who Kate is, and, even more to the point, about her history — think of her talking about where her parents and ancestors shot their moose and picked their berries — than does anything else in the series.
    If it has to be a material object, then I vote for the moose, as symbolic of what I’ve said and for reasons others have already said.

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  14. Edie Peterson says:

    “Less Than a Treason” must be like Conan Doyle bringing back Sherlock Holmes after Reichenbach Falls. I’m so glad you did. I love Kate.

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