Dr. Jill Biden made a special trip to Bethel, Alaska yesterday to promote the Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative, which aims to connect communities to reliable high-speed Internet. (Alaska’s backcountry is considered to have some of the worst internet service in the US). Accompanied by Interior Secretary Deb Haran, the first lady spoke at Bethel Regional High School. “With high-speed Internet, you will have better access to vital health care, new educational tools and remote work opportunities,” Biden told the crowd. “It’s going to change lives. It’s going to save lives.”
Given that the state is home to a large number of Alaska Natives – including the Yupik, Tlingit, and Haida, among others —Biden thoughtfully pays homage to Indigenous culture with her choice of attire. The First Lady wears the patriotic red, white and blue Qaspeq; a modern take on the traditional Alaska Native jacket, originally made from animal, gut or feather hides to keep the wearer warm and dry. Today, Qaspeqs come in a variety of colors and finishes—hers appear to be cotton canvas—but they often feature signature graphic trim and pullover silhouettes (each tribe or community’s style may vary). While the dress was likely a gift for Biden, her choice to wear it in Alaska perfectly highlights the beauty of indigenous culture and intentionally pays homage to the state’s first people.