Sally incorporates traditional knowledge, values, language and historical context into all of her activities. In addition to being an expert at sewing, Mrs. Swetzof can teach every aspect of cleaning and preparing a large variety of traditional foods, including butchering a seal. Respecting traditions, the environment, subsistence foods and being thankful for them are important concepts she teaches.
Ms. Swetzof was born in Atka, Alaska and grew up living a largely traditional lifestyle. She spoke only Unangam Tunuu until she started school and had to learn English. For over 20 years she has been active in cultural revitalization and has shared her knowledge throughout the entire Aleutian Pribilof Islands region. She currently works for the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association in the Cultural Heritage Department. She is the recipient of the 2013 AFN Culture Bearer award and the 2013 Shareholder of the Year awarded by the Aleut Corporation.
Mrs. Swetzof was instrumental in the revitalization of traditional Unangax^ dance. As one of the founding members of Atxam Taligisniikangis (Atka Dancers) she helped create dances and lyrics and provided the Unangam Tunuu translations for songs since its inception in 1995. She revitalized Unangax^ regalia through research she conducted at museums and by studying available literature and photographs. She then applied that research to become an expert at making traditional Unangax^ regalia.
Mrs. Swetzof is an active member of the Unangax^ community and also teaches at the Sand Point Culture Camp, Unalaska’s Camp Qungaayux^, and Akutan’s Camp Qigiigun. She was instrumental in the formation of the Sand Point Culture Camp which began in 1998 where she continues to teach today and has touched many lives.