Alaska Native youth participate in traditional food gathering. Photo from Store Outside Your Door / Facebook
The Store Outside Your Door is keeping Alaska Native food traditions alive:
Rain has soaked the ground, and a deep chill settles in Danielle Alvarez’s gloved fingers as she rubs them into the wet hide of a moose.
Soaked in fermented moose brain for two weeks, the hide is now soft and malleable, easier to dehair, stretch and strip. Alvarez, 20, and her mentor, Rochelle Adams, bend over the table to work, tediously scraping off the fine, stringy hair follicle membrane.
They will scrape for hours, the stench burning their noses.
Both women are Alaska Natives. Adams, a Gwich’in Athabascan from the Interior villages of Beaver and Fort Yukon, patiently teaches Alvarez, whose family is Upper Tanana Athabascan. Alvarez grew up in Anchorage and is passionate about reconnecting with her roots.
“This is a tradition that has evolved over hundreds of generations,” Adams said. It’s a tradition that has fit like a puzzle piece in a nutritional lifestyle of Alaska Natives centered around fishing, hunting, gathering and growing. Every bit of the moose is used, Adams said. The meat to eat. The hide to clothe. Its own bones and organs aid in the tanning process.
And it makes sense that here, at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, the women spend a Saturday demonstrating the task. But away from the center, in downtown Anchorage at a local café, or in a rural village with no road access, whether Native nutrition traditions like this are truly being passed down is more uncertain.
Get the Story:
Alaska Natives try to keep old foodways alive in land of food pyramid
(Al Jazeera 7/12)