Category Archives: Ethnobotany

Soapberries!

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

Nagoonberry Harvest Glacier Bay

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.

Wile Berries in Alaska and their uses

“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.

Berries” Inupiat Traditions

Good video from the UA Museum Ethnobotany collection on berries as food and medicine. Ethnobotany

Native Alaskan Ethnobotany

Check out this link to a series of movies about Alaskan Ethnobotany. One video is specifically on berries.

Alaska Ethnobotany

Spruce Root Berry Baskets

I once took an introductory workshop with Sitka artist Teri Rofkar on spruce root basket weaving. Tlingit basket weaving has persisted for over 6,000 years and many of these basket types were traditionally put to use while berry gathering. Many of the beautiful baskets that Teri brought to showcase were well stained with berry juice.

On her website, Teri says that “harvesting the raw materials to create the basketry is more labor intensive than weaving and in the case of large baskets can take years to collect before the weaving can begin.”

I do not doubt that for a second. Once the long surface roots are collected, roasted and whipped through a forked stick to remove the outer bark, they must be split multiple times and sorted for curvature. I tried my hand at this and decided it was not my calling. I could barely get a root evenly split in half. A skilled weaver can split a root into quarters, and then split those quarters in half!