During the weekend of July 17th , over 40 children and adults from Prince of Wales came together in Kasaan for three days to process and celebrate local bounties of the island.
The second Kasaan Community Harvest was coordinated by the Organized Village of Kasaan, Southeast Conference and the Sustainable Southeast Partnership. Communities participating included Kasaan, Hydaburg, Craig, Klawock, Thorne Bay, and Coffman Cove. In addition, we were honored to have Dolly Garza participate for a second year from Haida Gwaii. Garza and participants were also being filmed in Kasaan by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council about the importance of clean water!
The goal of the event was to build community around harvesting, processing, and celebrating local wild foods. During the Kasaan Community Harvest participants gathered at the Totem Trail Café to share family recipes and methodologies for jarred smoked sockeye and coho, plain packed coho, and venison. They were also able to visit a nearby smokehouse to see firsthand how to brine, hang and smoke the salmon. Participants picked thimbleberries and elderberries and learned how to make jam and jelly. They also prepared Devil’s Club salve using bark that was harvested during the 2014 event.
There was a wide range of experience brought by the participants. For some it was the first time touching a salmon, while others offered decades of experience, traditions, and family recipes. The weekend offered a time to revisit and practice Haida traditions of harvesting and celebrate the resources offered by the sea and land of Southeast.
Harvesting and preserving local foods encourages carrying on traditions and the responsible management of local resources, a practice that encourages sustainable harvesting of wild local foods for future generations.
A significant portion of food readily available to Southeast Alaskans is imported, thus the harvesting and preserving of wild, local foods builds self-reliance on a household and community level. The more imported foods that we can displace with local sources the less dependent we are on these vulnerable sources.
Overall, the harvest event was a great success and there are plans to have it as an annual event!
Below are some of the recipes, photos, and resources that were used over the weekend.
General Canning Resources (UAF Cooperative Extension Service)
Photo Slideshow: Preparing Devils Club Salve
Recipes and Methods
Cottage Foods Exemptions Information
The processing of non-hazardous foods that fall under Alaska’s Cottage Food Exemptions is a great opportunity for rural communities to participate in local commerce. Under these exemptions non-hazardous items such as the jams and can be sold.
Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Resources
Cooperative Extension Service Resources
- Guide to Operating a Successful Home-Based Food Business (University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service)
Photo Slideshow: Preparing Smoked Salmon at the 2015 Kasaan Harvest
Access to fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins in Alaska can be a daily challenge.Alaska imports ninety five percent of its food. This means that families pay high prices for processed and typically unhealthy foods, communities are vulnerable to delays and complications with importing from far away places and the state of Alaska unnecessarily exports money out of a region that is thirsty for economic stimulation.
This doesn’t need to be the case and a growing force of communities and entrepreneurs are working to challenge the status quo and localize our food systems. While greenhouses and garden initiatives are important elements, revitalizing our food system doesn’t end with cultivation. In Alaska, we are surrounded by wild food sources as diverse and vibrant as the cultures and communities that call this state home….
Learn about a growing community of Alaskan residents, communities and organizations who are dedicated to invigorating Alaska’s Food System with wild foods.
The Kasaan Wild Foods Harvest will be continued in 2015 with a weekend salmon smoke-out! Click here to register and learn more.
Written and photographed by Bethany Goodrich for Capital City Weekly
Deep in the coastal rainforest of Prince of Wales Island, the Haida village of Kasaan prepares for the 5th Annual Kasaan Community Harvest. This event attracts people from across the island to this remote village of less than 80 residents to share techniques in harvesting, process salmon and other wild edibles and to celebrate place.
This year, the event will be held Aug. 10-11. Terry West, the Economic Development Director for the Organized Village of Kasaan (OVK), is organizing this year’s event but isn’t waiting until August to get her hands dirty. West has been facilitating monthly “Health Hikes” to begin gathering and processing. In February, a group from Kasaan, Craig and Klawock harvested Usnea (Old Man’s Beard) to begin the tincture process. The final tinctures will be available to trial for their microbial and antifungal properties at the event. In April, the group squeezed through salmon berry brush and mucked through riverine mud, to harvest Devil’s Club stalks.
Marina Anderson is the Vice President and Administrative Assistant of OVK. She helped co-lead the Devil’s Club hike with her brother Quinn Aboudara. Both have looked to the lands and waters for a seasonal bounty of plants, fish and game their entire lives.
“Devil’s club is our sacred medicinal plant. Aside from it being one of the closest related plants to ginseng, it has other beneficial properties: it can flush you out, give you energy, and balance things inside you,” Anderson said.
Anderson shared an impressive list of uses for Devil’s Club. The inner back can be dried into tea or soaked in oil and combined with wax to make a salve. The soft and lightweight wood stalks are turned into drum sticks or beads. The berries can be applied to the scalp to treat lice. Different stages of the bud offer different healing properties and the root, which like ginseng is more concentrated than the rest of the plant, can be processed to lower blood sugar, boost the immune system, cure gall stones, and more, she said.
People also hang branches above home doors or in fishing vessels for protection.
“Devil’s Club also wards off evils spirits and can give you a good mental state of mind, close to a euphoric state. And when gathering it you know that it has always been our medicine so the way it feels to be out there gathering is insane because you know that for over 10,000 years this plant has been healing our people. And the smell itself is healing,” she said.
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