When Grete Bergman was in her 20s, she began to think and dream about having facial markings. This was a tradition rooted in her Native Alaskan family from the Gwich’in Nation. But growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, she learned a clear message from her father and grandmother that many of their family traditions would not be tolerated, in or outside of the house. 

Nearly ten years later, Grete met Sarah Whalen-Lunn through mutual friends. Sarah’s father is white, but her mother was Inupaq, so she is part of the Inuit Nation. 

Sarah Whalen-Lunn (L), about one year old, with her mother, Irene June Hayes. Grete Bergman (R) age 6 months, with her father, Grafton Bergman. Courtesy of Sarah Whalen-Lunn and Grete Bergman.

Sarah was also drawn to Traditional Face Markings, because she wanted to reconnect with the customs her family had been forced to abandon. In 2016, she enrolled in a program that taught her how to give them.  

Grete Bergman with her Traditional Markings. Courtesy of Sarah Whelan-Lunn.

This is where their paths crossed, and a friendship began. Their connection has helped revive a traditional practice that had been lost to previous generations of women.

Top Photo: Grete Bergman and Sarah Whalen-Lunn at their StoryCorps interview in Anchorage, Alaska on August 14, 2018. By Camila Kerwin for StoryCorps.

Originally aired October 15, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.