In Kasaan, a Haida community, food is culture and serves to instill a sense of pride in identity and culture. Traditional foods serve as medicines for physical, spiritual, and mental well-being and reconnect people to the land, nature, and their traditions. Revitalizing this for Kasaan people is important to understanding food origins; the relevance of traditional foods to diet and culture, and for encouraging preference for locally harvested foods.
A series of events were held in Kasaan with the purpose of engaging community members in the harvesting, processing and consumption of wild and traditional foods, medicines, and materials. Additionally an evening class was offered on food preservation and Cottage Foods Businesses (led by Sarah Lewis from the UAF Cooperative Extension Service). This evening workshop was followed by a three-day harvest event led by Carrie Sykes, Kasaan Community Catalyst, and Dolly Garza, UAF professor Emerita.
Over the course of three days 27 people (primarily from Kasaan and Hydaburg) congregated to learn about identification, proper harvesting techniques, and processing methods of wild foods, medicines, and materials. Participants congregated at the Totem Café and were transported to the sites of the plants to be harvested. Over the first two days participants learned to pick Hudson Bay Tea or in Haida, Xíl kagan, and Devil’s Club, Ts’íihlanjaaw. The kids especially enjoyed the picking of the Hudson Bay Tea, and bags were quickly filled with the fragrant, leathery leaves to be dried in the sun. Devil’s club was also harvested, and the more involved technique for processing the medicinal bark was practiced by everyone.
Day two was filled with beach asparagus and goose tongue. An early start to the day led to a hard earned lunch and seven cases of pint jars filled with pickled and plain canned beach asparagus. We learned the importance of “picking clean” the first time around to expedite the processing…
Dolly Garza, an expert on traditional use of marine resources by Alaska Native cultures and intertidal foods led a beach walk and shared her knowledge of edible seaweeds on the third day. Almost all of the seaweeds we found were edible and tasted great if prepared in the proper way. Most seaweeds, with the exception of fucus can be dried and then stored in airtight containers for up to a year. Dolly brought all sorts of samples to share that she had already prepared– including kelp salsa, kelp pickles and an assortment of dried seaweeds.
Everything prepared was distributed among the participants and a portion was set aside for community events.
Check out Dolly’s book here.
Check out the identification guide created for the event here.