Alaska Indigenous woman has become ‘TikTok famous’ for celebrating her culture online

Patuk Glenn is entertaining and educating her 81,000 followers on TikTok with videos about the Iñupiat way of life. (Submitted)
An Iñupiaq woman from Utqiagvik, Alaska, is taking the TikTok world by storm by giving her followers a taste of her culture.

Patuk Glenn is entertaining and educating her 81,000 followers on the popular social media platform, with videos about the Iñupiat way of life.

“I just wanted to create different content that helps celebrate our way of life. We’re not just some culture that’s dead and in a museum. Our culture is alive and it’s resilient and it’s ever changing and growing.”Patuk Glenn

Glenn’s popular videos cover everything from food to clothing and hunting. She showcases fur-trimmed parkas and other traditional clothing. In others, she eats Inuit ice cream, made of caribou fat and ground caribou meat, as well as seal meat. She also walks her viewers through a traditional ice cellar behind her mother’s house where they preserve whale, seal and caribou.

WATCH | Glenn shows people what it’s like in a traditional ice cellar (0:42)

Patuk Glenn’s popular videos cover everything from food to clothing and hunting. Here she walks followers through a traditional ice cellar behind her mother’s house.

Some videos have sparked backlash — particularly one that featured muktuk, or whale skin, which was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and sparked some negative comments.

Glenn said that’s where the ability to block followers comes in handy.

“At first I was really upset. From there, with all of the negative backlash, I felt like it was my responsibility to help educate on why our Inuit people in the Arctic are hunters and gatherers.”Patuk Glenn
Glenn, far right, with her sisters at Kivgiq, a mid-winter festival in Alaska. ‘We’re not just some culture that’s dead and in a museum,’ Glenn says. (Submitted)

Glenn said the negativity opened her eyes to the bullying kids face online. That drove her to educate her followers even more, in hopes that her daughter can one day share more about who she is without worrying about harassment online.

“We don’t want our kids to feel ashamed of who they are and where they came from. That’s what really hurt me the most.”Patuk Glenn

WATCH | Glenn shares her culture on TikTok (1:09)

Patuk Glenn has been sharing her Inupiat culture with her 80,000 followers on TikTok. She hopes it educates people about her way of life. Audio in this video has been removed due to copyright reasons. 

Glenn said she’s also learning about other Indigenous cultures, like Navajo and Cree, simply by watching videos online.

“In the United States, we’re largely left out of the media. There’s no representation of us. It’s 2020, we have a real opportunity in this day and age to be able to educate the world where institutional education has failed, or where mainstream media has failed.”Patuk Glenn

Her family has called her “TikTok famous,” Glenn said with a laugh, but she hopes to keep growing her following.

“This platform is helping give the power back into Indigenous people’s hands, to speak on behalf of themselves. I think that’s the real cool piece of it.”

Written by Katherine Barton, with files from Mark Hadlari and Hilary Bird

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Nunavut throat singer Riit a finalist for the Canadian SOCAN Songwriting Prize, CBC News

Norway: BBC lists Sami journalist Sara Wesslin among world’s 100 most influential women, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Calls for more Indigenous protection in Sweden on Sami national day, Radio Sweden

United States: Indigenous leaders at UN meeting push for decade dedicated to language revitalization, CBC News

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