I got a chance to tag along with Pat Frank (Deg Hit’an Athabascan) from Holy Cross and Anchorage as he harvested Old Man’s Beard for the first time. People in Alaska have harvested from the lands and waters for thousands of years. More and more people are relearning harvesting plants for medicinal purposes.
Pat has been learning about traditional plants medicines and healing for quite a few years. I was fortunate to spend an afternoon with him, his wife, Linda, and a couple family friends north of Anchorage on the Park’s Highway. He was harvesting usnea, also known as Old Man’s Beard. It’s a lichen that grows on trees and shrubs. We saw them growing on spruce trees and some other trees. It really looks like an old man’s beard. Continue reading “Harvesting Old Man’s Beard with Pat Frank”→
My friends, cousins and other relatives often share awesome stories on social media. Here’s a story from my cousin, Sterling DeWilde (Koyukon Athabascan) of Huslia and Fairbanks. He grew up mostly in camp outside of Huslia with his late parents, Lloyd and Amelia DeWilde. I always loved listening to my late Aunt Amelia’s stories, and I’m glad Sterling is continuing the tradition. He agreed to share his story below.
“I got my 70 hp Yamaha running and mounted on my 24’ flat-bottom Rhyancraft. It’s fully equipped with hydraulic trim and power lift. Thank you Norvin DeWilde for the lift and Ricko DeWilde for the boat ?. This was my first motor I ever owned back when I was at home on the North Fork. It has a 60 hp cowling. It hasn’t been run in over ten years. It sat in Huslia a while then I shipped it up here and haven’t looked it over since.
It needed some serious work on several electrical systems and the carburetors/linkages needed tuning. It fired up in just a few cranks and runs smooth now. I put it on my dad’s 24’ allweld after his Honda 30 hp broke down, during some of our last years on the homestead. His boat was rated for a 45 hp but handled the 70 like it was meant for it. I used to rip the 120 miles of the Huslia and North for rivers, between our camp and Huslia, in about three hours.
That narrow boat would handle the sharp turns of the skinny North Fork at full speed. Once, I drove from our camp to Huslia and back, then back to Huslia, all in the same day. Then I drove back to camp in the morning. Mom, Amelia, seemed to be pleased with me making the frequent trips. She actually helped me make excuses on a few occasion.
Even though mom wasn’t going along most of the time, I always brought mail, food stuffs, movies, and local news with me. She was real social and I think it made her feel that much more connected. I’d go on the journey for just about any ol’ reason at all. Pops was always like, ‘What, another trip? You just got here.’ But he knew mom was all for it, so he didn’t argue, so long as I covered gas and he didn’t have to fix anything.
The best trip I ever had on that river, I drove down from camp and ran some errands then loaded up the boat for the return that same day. I knew there was a full moon and a clear night coming, so I left Huslia late. About 2/3 the way up it was too dark to see, so I stopped at a well-used camp spot called Birch Hill and had a fire and made tea and chilled.
A couple hours later, the moon came out, then I took off again. The moon lit the water up like bright silver and I could read everything on the surface like I had magic goggles on. The channel stood out like a monochrome sonogram. The dark surroundings made it seem like I was racing through a galactic speedway; it was truly magnificent and utterly exhilarating.
I think that may have contributed to my love for boat racing; the very first time I hopped in “Jen Jen” with Bill Page, to be his bow-man, I was hooked. I will forever be grateful for the experiences he has showed me and the support he’s given. After dog racing, I think I would have been pretty glum, had I not had a fast summer sport to fill the void.”
Enaa baasee’ to my cousin, Sterling DeWilde, for sharing this story on the Athabascan Woman Blog!
P.S. If you would like to share a short story like this, go to the Contact page to reach me or message me on Facebook.
My friend and colleague, Colin Tass’aq McDonald (Yup’ik), loves following the Iditarod. Each year, he shares his fun and humorous analysis with his personal network. His friends and family relied on his updates and often tagged and begged him for his daily updates. He had a lot of fun with nicknames and memes for the mushers. Tass’aq’s grew up dog mushing in Bethel, Alaska. He graciously agreed to share an update on Pete Kaiser’s win of the 2019 Iditarod. Pete is the first Yup’ik musher to win the Iditarod. Quyana for sharing, Tass’aq!
I just boarded the plane on my first leg on my journey to Egypt less than 24 hours after flying to Nome to watch Slippery Pete cross under the famed burled arch to become the first Yu’pik champion of the Iditarod. I wanted to share this post (below) from a few days back, because it was my favorite point of an amazing race!
In my opinion, ‘Pete’s Gambit’ out of Grayling is when he put himself into position to grab the belt as the ‘greatest musher in the world’! He put the pressure on the front runners Nic Le Lapin and Joar of The Hill people, and made them make decisions that compromised the speed of their teams down the trail. He eventually did what Slippery Pete does and slipped past both and into immortality.
The atmosphere in the chute last night was indescribable. I have been to about a dozen Iditarod finishes and I have never witnessed that kind of energy. John Baker’s finish came closest. Of course, I am being extremely biased, but it was distant in comparison. Nobody brings the energy like #KuskoNation!
I was so happy to be able to share the moment with my little cousin Ari (Pete’s son and my ticket into the chute…Quyana Ari!) as he got the ‘best seat in the house’ sitting on my shoulders as we soaked it all in. So many friends and family were there in the same state of awe as me. I was teary-eyed during the entire experience. I have grown up around and have participated in sports my entire life and have witnessed many moments that have left me floored, but I have never experienced an athletic feat that had such a personal and emotional effect on me and I’ll venture to guess that Pete’s first championship will never be bested in that regards.
In 2008, when Pete won the Bogus Creek 150, my Dad, John McDonald, said “Pete is going to win the Iditarod someday.” At the time, it seemed unfathomable, but to be there first hand to watch Pete achieve all his goals and dreams is something I will never forget.
This accomplishment has brought so much pride to his family, friends, community, region, state, and to the Yup’ik people and I am just so proud of my friend! I’m also proud of all the other Kusko Mushers this year. Richiero Su zuki, 2 quicklas Niklas Wikstrand, Jessica JR GRowling’ Klejka, and Victoria ‘The Frozen Candle’ Hardwick, ran and are continuing to run amazing races.
I also wanted to give a big Quyana for all the thank yous and encouragement on my posts throughout the race. I loved the people reaching out to tell me they had never really followed the race, but really got into it and excited reading my somewhat silly and irreverent ‘coverage’ this year.
Growing up with a dog team really gave me a great appreciation, love, and respect for all these mushers and dogs do. It really made me smile to get texts and posts from ‘racing legend’ Myron Angstman and the son of an Iditarod Champ, Isa Fredricks to “Update Us!” As I hope you can tell, I truly enjoyed posting them and I am so happy to play my small part in this amazing piece of our Alaskan Culture. Once again, Quyana, and we will see all you race fans next year!! Now off to the pyramids!! What an amazing week!
Tass’aq’s March 9th Analysis of the Point When He Believes Pete Kaiser Set Himself Up for Success
Slippery Pete’s Gambit – When Slippery Pete left Grayling in 3rd, I was sitting at my sister’s house with my parents, Beverly and John. I got the word on the Iditajunkie text thread and we all said, ‘Holy Shit’!! Everybody assumed he was there for his 8 hours [layover], since he had already been there for 6 hours.
But then after thinking about it, it became pretty clear that it’s the perfect move to make if you want to win a race like this. He is putting pressure on Joar of the Hill People and Nic Le Lapin now. He is going to take his 8 hours, but they are going to have to rest too and all that time is time he is catching up. And with the weather still coming in, the teams behind may have a tough trail to make up time. We will see if it works, but Ole’ Slippery is out there playing chess right now and has put himself in pretty good posish to make a run at this thing!
He has passed Nic and is 4 miles behind Joar at this moment. Rawhide Richie had a great run after taking his 8 hours. Pulled into Grayling in 7th at 7:15. I bet he gets back on the trail to start chasing down those leaders pretty soon. JK GRowling left Iditarod just a few minutes ago and Niklas Sixx pulled in there at 10:31. I was asked why I’m not posting about Victoria Hardwick…don’t really know her. ??♂️ But she is grinding it out like a true Kuskokwim musher and deserves to get in these posts. ‘The Frozen Candle’ (Hardwick…get it?) is out of Ophir at 6:33 pm. Jessica and Vic still both have 14 dogs!! Word on the trail is that Hardwick’s dogs have amazing breath. Going to be up late tracking. May have some updates. Boy that was a long one!!
Enaa baasee’ Colin Tass’aq McDonald for the fun and exciting updates! Here are a couple other updates from Kaiser Racing Kennels and Indian Country Today.
Update from Kaiser Racing Kennels:
Check out the update from Indian Country Today – Yup’ik musher wins Iditarod! Pete Kaiser is first Yup’ik, fifth Alaska Native to win 998-mile race.
Indian Country Today provided a list of Alaska Native winners of the Iditarod: 2019: Peter Kaiser, Yup’ik, 9 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes, 6 seconds.
2011: John Baker, Iñupiaq, 8 days 18 hours 46 minutes 39 seconds.
1976: Gerald Riley, Athabascan, 18 days 22 hours 58 minutes 17 seconds.
1975: Emmitt Peters, Athabascan, 14 days 14 hours 43 minutes 45 seconds.
1974: Carl Huntington, Athabascan, 20 days 15 hours 2 minutes 7 seconds.
My niece, Blanche Sam (Athabascan/Iñupiaq) of Hughes, has really come into her own in the past couple of years with her beadwork, and I hadto interview her. I love her colorful earrings and creativity with using materials, like dentalium shells and hide. Enaa baasee’ Blanche for agreeing to share your beading journey on the Athabascan Woman Blog!
Blanche’s parents are Lester and Ella Sam of Hughes. Her paternal grandparents were the late Frank Sam, Elma (Nictune) Sam and biological (Blanche Henry); and maternal grandparents are the late Arthur Ambrose and Alice (Simon) Ambrose. Blanche now lives in Fairbanks with her own family, including Zeb Cadzow, and children Dakota and Harper Cadzow. She earned an associate degree in accounting from at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and currently works for her village corporation, K’oyitl’ots’ina, Limited.
“My mom and grandmothers did it and were so good at it and it is a big part of our culture as Alaska Natives.” – Blanche Sam (Koyukon Athabascan/Iñupiaq)
Blanche learned to bead in elementary school from her grandmothers and aunt. Some of her first memories of beading and sewing were in school. Blanche remembers her grandmothers and aunt receiving a grant to get furs, hide, beads and other supplies. She learned to sew calf skin boots with help from her grandmothers, Alice and Rita. Her aunt, Hazel, was the first one to teach her how to bead earrings with a basic pattern with bugle beads.
After buying several pairs of earrings in 2016, she thought, ‘I should just make my own.’ She began making her own jewelry and connected with it. Now when she’s not busy with her kids, you can find her at her beading table. She invested in supplies and challenged herself with some ambitions first projects. She has learned a lot and improved since the beginning. I’ve loved watching the progression of her styles and themes as she has shared them on social media.
Blanche stared sharing pictures of her earrings on social media and people were interested and started ordering from her. She found a higher demand once she started an online presence as Brilliant Beads by Blanche. After creating a small business, she started selling more, created a logo, ordered business cards, and learned to take better photos of her work. Although making extra money is nice, she appreciates the therapeutic nature of beading and how it connects her to her culture giving her a sense of purpose. Blanche says, “It allowed me to relax, escape and filled me with purpose.”
Blanche’s Advice for Beaders Who Want to Create a Small Business
Find and perfect a niche.
Having booths at bazaars is a great way to get known and get the word out about your product.
Create an online presence. Her online presence has especially helped increase her sales at bazaars.
Learn to take good photographs of your work in natural light.
Search for ideas on Pinterest for inspiration and help with your creations. It is also a great place to get ideas for creating an eye catching and inviting booth.
Overall, Blanche says, “Do not give up if you make mistakes. I made a lot and learned from each one of them.” She sells about 60-80 pairs for each bazaar she attends. It is impressive to see how she has grown in her beading journey and how she has come close to selling out at her last bazaars. Way to go, Blanche!
I want to give a shout-out to some writers, podcasters, photographers, creators, beaders and Native royalty to consider following in honor of Alaska Native and American Indian Heritage Month.
Alice Qannik Glenn (Iñupiaq) started a podcast, called Coffee and Quaq, this summer. She describes it as: “Coffee & Quaq provides a platform for the generation of Alaska Natives who continue practicing cultural traditions, but also enjoy the modern commodities of the millennial era like Mario Kart, iPhones, and Tang. Coffee & Quaq? It’s a great time to be alive.” Her latest episode was, LGBTQ in the Native Community. I’m looking forward to what she’s creating! She is the first Alaska Native podcaster I know of!
Jen Jul (Athabascan) is documenting her life and building up her business in Denmark as a social media strategist on her new blog, My Kind of Jen. She’s trying to make a life for herself with her family and new life. Give her a follow on Facebook too. She’s an excellent photographer too. I worked with her over 25 years ago in a college summer job.
Susie Lee Edwardson (Haida) of Haida Life created a “Native YouTubers” Twitter account @NativeTubers. You may recall she shared a list of Native Vloggers, Gamers and Organizations on the Athabascan Woman Blog a couple years ago. I love how she shares her language journey and teaching Haida. @NativeTubers is a great way to share content of indigenous vloggers/sharers!
While you’re on Twitter, give a follow to Speak Gwich’in To Me. Jacey Firth has been sharing her Gwich’in language journey in Canada. Check out this documentary about her here!
While you are on Twitter, give Indigenous Beads a follow. @IndigenousBeads is a new host every week with about six regulars. I have hosted it a few times over the past year or so. The hosts share beadwork, process, how people can purchase their items, and much more. If you are a fan of beadwork, you’ll want to give them a follow. It’s a great way to converse with other beaders across the Nation.
If you are looking for inspiration from Indian Country, follow up-and-comer Tanaya Winder on Girl On Fire. She is a writer, educator, motivational speaker, and performance poet from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. Tanaya came up to Alaska earlier this year, and shared her spoken poetry, book and sang with Frank Waln. I love how she uplifts people with her strong voice. She fill people up (especially young Indigenous people) with light in the way they need to be filled up, which is healing. She even has a TedTalk!
“Soldotna Artist Joel Isaak, who is Dena’ina, wrought the bronze statue to represent a well known Dena’ina community member, Grandma Olga Nicolai Ezi from the Tyone Lake, and Copper River regions. Born in 1875, she was the matriarch of her family and was married to Simeon Ezi, a chief of the upper Cook Inlet, including Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley and was known as Cheda, or Grandmother, by the region.”
Here are a few articles to read in the news about Alaska Native people:
Check out the interview with Irene Bedard (Iñupiaq) in the Anchorage Press. Thank you to her sister-in-law, Vera Bedard, for pointing it out. Vera says, she “talks about Pocahontas, Smoke Signals, Native issues advocacy, and really everything else!” According the article, Bedard will spend much of her time in Alaska through the spring as artist-in-residence with Perseverance Theatre, which is celebrating its 40th season, and its first since nearly going under in 2018.
Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson (Yup’ik) shared her story as a sexual abuse survivor on KTUU, in an article entitled, ‘In my childhood the monsters were very real’ — Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson talks about childhood trauma. She is using her voice to bring light to this critical issue. She says,”I think it gets fixed by us bringing light to the issue and shining the harsh light of judgement and reality every time that that injustice happens, because we deserve justice, just as everybody else does, and it’s not OK that that continues to happen.” I appreciate and admire her strength in speaking up for so many people who suffer in silence. I’m a Val fan and love seeing an Alaska Native woman as lieutenant governor!
Bob Sam (Tlingit) and other Alaska Native people visited the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Photo journalist Daniella Zalcman shared the story on the Pulitzer Center, entitled Carlisle and the Indian Boarding School Legacy in America. I was there with the Alaskans. It was a very powerful experience, while I attended the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition.
Emil Notti (Koyukon Athabascan) said a movie should be made on Percy Blatchford (Iñupiaq). Emil shared some pretty amazing stories of Percy’s life, and it really seemed like he was a Native James Bond in his time. I was happy to see this article by Michael Hankins, which was published in the Last Frontier Magazine and it was republished by the ECHO. It is entitled, Percy Blatchford – Alaska Legend.
Read about two Alaska Native teens, John Fredson and Esaias George, getting official credit for assisting historic Denali ascent in the Anchorage Daily News.
I can definitely go on about awesome people doing great things (or who have done), but I’ll stop here for now. Here’s one last shout-out to the new Miss Indigenous Northern Arizona University, Shondiin Mayo (Koyukon Athabascan/Navajo). Congratulations Shondiin on your new title and I know you will be a great role model!