With the Alaska Department of Public Safety searching for a new supply of fur trapper hats for State Troopers, many Troopers are turning to their local communities for help.The Department has allowed Troopers to have their hats custom-made, as long as they meet certain requirements.
Many State Troopers prefer the custom-made option, because a perfect, tight fit is crucial for protection against the harsh Alaskan elements. According to retired Trooper Earl Samuelson, even the tiniest gap can allow cold air in and cause frostbite. During his career, Samuelson, himself Yup’ik, had most of his fur hats made by family.
Furthermore, many Troopers prefer custom-made hats because they value connection with their communities. Last spring, Denakkanaga, a Native organization in Fairbanks, held an event called Caps for Cops, where police officers could make their own fur hats with Native elders coaching them. Several officers brought their children to meet the elders, and by the end of the project even called the elders “Grandma.”
Fairbanks Police Officer Clint Brubeck worked with Marie Yaska, an elder in her 80s originally from the interior Athabascan community of Huslia. She nicknamed him “Broken Needles” in her language because he broke two of her sewing machine needles. Brubeck admits his workmanship is far from perfect, but he says every time he puts on his beaver hat he thinks of the stories she shared with him.
Image at top: Denakkanaga Elders and Fairbanks police officers celebrate end of the “Caps for Cops” project. Photos courtesy of KNBA, used with permission.
Image in the middle: Elder Marie Yaska working with Fairbanks Police Officer Clint Brubeck in Denakkanaga’s Caps for Cops program. Photos courtesy of KNBA, used with permission.
Image at the bottom: Alaska State Troopers from Fairbanks visit Allakaket, a community on the Koyukuk River in Interior Alaska. Photos courtesy of KNBA, used with permission.