By Nancy Yeaton
Local and Regional food plays a vital role in the Chugach Peoples survival, culture and passing down of traditional recipes. Food harvesting, preservation, preparation and cooking are a valued tradition promoting the health and safety of the people.
1. What are the best harvest times?
2. Proper care and safety for preservation.
3. How to prepare and cook food to eat?
“We grew up eating all these different animals, sea mammals, and birds. When a bunch of people are out gathering food, they take the time to talk, developing a sense of closeness. But when you’re shopping in the store, you’re running here and there with your grocery cart. You pay for your food and then you go home right away. Subsistence bonds people, whether they are picking berries, digging cockles or razor clams, hunting seal or bear or deer, or putting away salmon for the winter. It brings people together. People tell stories and catch up on one another’s lives. There’s a lot of laughter when you’re out subsisting.” Karen Katelnikoff i
The Chugach Region communities continue to participate and thrive on their seasonal gathering of traditional foods. These foods keep us connected to our ancestors, culture, environment, family and well-being. Gathering, preparing, preserving and cooking traditional foods help to create memories like the person who cooked the food, stories told, people present at the time, and how it tasted.These memories are the connections between the Elders and younger generation and then can be passed down to their descendants and so forth.
Preservation of food was important to survival. It was during this same time many of the communities used underground storage for food items. During the winter, when unable to hunt or gather, the preserved food helped sustain our people until spring. Some preservation methods used for most of the food items was drying and fermentation. Another preservation method for food items such as; berries, fish eggs, greens was to place them in a dried seal stomach and cover with seal oil. During the winter, the contents of the seal stomach would be whipped by hand to enjoy with dried meats. It was not until the Russians came with wooden barrels, that our ancestors would store food such as salting meats.
The nomadic days to hunt and gather foods like our ancestors is not necessary as food is more readily available year round. Yet, there is a strong pull deeply rooted within us to gather and hunt for our traditional foods. Traditional foods not only provide nourishment but also fullfill our spiritual needs, because it make us feel alive and connected to culture.
In the Traditional Foods and Recipe heritage kit, students will have the opportunity to gather traditional recipes from family members and the community. As students gather recipes from family or community members they shall hear stories about who made it the best, names associated with recipes and those delicious dishes. They will discover many of the recipes have been in the family system for a very long time. As in many of the traditional dishes, recipes have been modified by adding store bought food items. We now use many products to enhance the flavor of our traditional foods.
Elders and recognized experts should be invited to share their knowledge, history, Sugt’stun, Prince William or Eyak dialect of vocabulary.
i (2007) In We are the land, we are the sea: stories of subsistence from the people of Chenega (pp. 40). Anchorage, AK: Chenega Heritage, INC.
Bidarkis; Subsistence Intertidal Food Harvesting in Alaska
Nancy Yeaton, seal lungs
ANHC Alaska students learn how to butcher a seal
Alutiiq Pride: A Story of Subsistence
Diane Selanoff, Valdez - Fish Filleting & Strips
Diane Selanoff, Valdez, Demonstrating Splitting Fish and Brine (Clip 2)
Diane Selanoff, Valdez, Demonstrating Fish Filet and Strips (clip 3)
Store Outside Your Door: Indigenous food and health for Alaska Native people
Sushi in Nanwalek
Fish Pie in Nanwalek
Braiding Seal Intestine
• Climate Change
• Food From the Sea
• Honoring Eyak
• Our Water
• Traditional Food & Recipes
• Traditional Housing & Shelters
• Traditional Place Names
• Traditional Transportation
• Traditional Weather Forecasting
• Additional Heritage Kits
1840 Bragaw Street, Suite 110
Anchorage, Alaska 99508-3463
ANA Grant Number S356A150066