Grantee: Teri Rofkar
Teri Rofkar is an internationally renowned artist of the Tlingit Tribe of Alaska, known for her exquisite weaving.
For over 25 years, she has been weaving baskets and textiles from cedar, spruce tree roots, ferns and mountain goat wool, which she collects in the woods and along the shoreline of her Northwest coast home.
Rofkar addresses and advocates for the sustainability of natural resources integral to her work as a Native artist. She is wedded to the notion of preserving the environment and coexisting in its ecological balance. “Basketry is about having a relationship to the land,” said Rofkar. “More time is spent on the land as my weavings become increasingly intricate.”
Some of the trees she visits in gathering materials are hundreds of years old and known to her family for generations. Her work does not stand in isolation – rather it is used by tribal members during ceremony and cultural activities.
Rofkar has received a number of celebrated awards including the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award, an elusive Creative Capital project award, the prestigious NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award, the United States Artists Fellowship and a 2013 NACF Artist Fellowship for Traditional Arts.
Like her weavings, her goals for the NACF Artist Fellowship year were precisely laid out: complete the weaving of a new mountain goat raven’s tail robe; work with an education consultant to create an Indigenous science curriculum based on the processes of gathering, planning a design and weaving a robe; publish research findings highlighting the science embedded within Tlingit artistic practices; and present the robe at the Northern Wild Sheep and Goat conference as the keynote speaker.
NACF’s support allowed Rofkar to complete the Mountain Goat DNA robe, which required a total of 900 hours to weave. She was able to purchase equipment to scan mineral profiles of ancient Tlingit weavings held in museums and to attend the 2013 Northern Wild Sheep and Goat Council Biennial Symposium.
During her fellowship year, Rofkar worked with individuals spanning a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds. She met with close to 500 participants in lectures she delivered at museums, conferences and in schools. Rofkar shared a presentation of the robe with U.S. Fish and Game Department staff working to protect the mountain goats on Baranof Island.
Teri Rofkar passed away in December 2016. While we are deeply saddened by the loss of this artist, we are honored to have supported her heritage practice, and again reminded of the urgency to preserve, honor, and pass on Native culture and tradition-based knowledge. The following is her artist biography, written in 2013.