Alice Qannik Glenn (b. 1989)
Holly Nordlum did my traditional hand-poke tattoos in May 2019 at her Anchorage studio. I was going through a rough time in my life, stressing out about my career path, my identity as a Native woman, and my contributions to my community. I felt lost, like I needed a cultural grounding. I reached out to Holly Nordlum, asking her about Inuit cheek tattoos, and set up an appointment. Holly has always been an inspiration and a mentor to me as an Iñupiaq woman. My best friend from home, Margaret Alice, accompanied me. When we got there, Holly gave me a big hug, started telling me stories and joking around, and she immediately put my nerves at ease. She asked me to imagine all my stresses and anxieties leaving my body with each poke of her needle and I did. When she was finished, I felt proud, lighter and freer. Traditionally, some say that cheek tattoos were meant to ward off evil spirits and promote fertility, but for me, they're associated with my upbringing, which is when I felt most free in the world. They represent a sense of freedom I've only ever felt at home in Utqiaġvik -- freedom to explore, freedom from Western beauty ideals, and freedom from outside pressures.