The attached link is an article written by Kevin Jernigan, Olga S. Belichenko, Valeria B. Kolosova and Darlene J. Orr that compares uses of plants including berries from the past through elder recollections compared to present uses. They also compared usage with communities in Nome and Kotzebue. Edible plant use has dropped overall from previous years (13%) but the awareness of medicinal uses has skyrocketed (+225%) no doubt because of the interest in antioxidants and other bioactive components. I completed a similar project in the mid 1990s in Ft. Yukon, Alaska and found about a 20% drop in native plant uses, but my project was before all the interest in antioxidants.
Some of the plants whose use had actually increased include: wild chives (Allium schoenoprasum), tilsey sage (Artemisia tilesii), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), river beauty (Epilobium (Camerion) latifolium, mountain sorrel (Oxyria digyna), sour dock, (Rumex arcticus), and cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus). The plant locally called stinkweed or tilsey sage is interesting because I found it mentioned in nearly every ethnobotanical reference written in Alaska. It has extensive medicinal uses throughout the state and now the Russian Far East. All the berries mentioned are also the most popular berries harvested in northern Alaska. The berry with the greatest increase in uses from the past is mesutaq better known as masru, lingonberry or low bush cranberry. No surprise there!
Here is a thesis that explores climate change through berries near Kugluktuk, Nunavut, Canada. The program is part citizen science as well as documenting the ethnobotany of the region. It includes great summaries of the most important berries and even some recipes!
Posted in Bearberry (Arctostaphylos), Berry Harvesting, Blueberries (Vaccinium), Cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus), Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Ecology, Ethnobotany, Foraging, Lingonberry, Lowbush cranberry, Vaccinium vitis-idaea), Recipes, Wild harvesting
Soapberries are a berry I was not familiar with, but I found that these berries were smoked. I had never heard of smoking a berry before, it then is pressed into cakes and other sweet desserts. An example article about soap berries is referenced bellow. Vierek,E.Soapberry. Available online: Soapberry. Accessed 19 Oct, 2016. BE Fairbanks
Berry picking is a large part of most Alaskan cultures and heritages. This is a video produced in cooperation with Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve and the Hoonah Indian Association. In this ten minute video there are 21 lucky berry pickers that were invited to the Glacier Bay National Park to pick Nagoon berries. In this video you get to see and hear introductions of those invited berry picking including some information on the individuals cultural background and their thoughts and feelings on being able to go berry nagoon berry picking. I like this video because you get a since of the feeling of pride and happiness that berry picking can bring not only an individual but also a community. I really liked that many of these pickers were first time nagoon berry pickers. What a great program the National Park Service has created by helping Alaskan cultures get back to some of their roots. LH Fairbanks
Grant, K. 2011. Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve Berry Pickers 2011. Available online: https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=C3F041A5-1DD8-B71C-0774CC1129C90E5A . Accessed: 10 Oct. 2016.
“How are your berries? Perspectives of Alaska’s environmental managers on trends in wild berry abundance” is an article that I found that has a lot of information on wild berries in Alaska, perfect! The article is about a study done on berries, which berries people are eating and the abundance of berries and how it has been changing through the years. The researchers received information back from 73 communities in Alaska. It was so interesting to see which regions favored which berries the most! In the interior their research says that the lowbush blueberry is the most popular, which is my favorite. I’ll attach the link below if anyone wants to see the information on wild berries in Alaska!
Hupp, J., Brubaker, M., Wilkinson, K., & Williamson, J. 2015. How are your berries? Perspectives of Alaska’s environmental managers on trends in wild berry abundance. Available online: Berries. Accessed on 5 Oct, 2016.
Good video from the UA Museum Ethnobotany collection on berries as food and medicine. Ethnobotany
Check out this link to a series of movies about Alaskan Ethnobotany. One video is specifically on berries.