Celebrating Closing Milestones
As we reflect on the incredible journey of this project, we feel grateful for our partnership with Native Conservancy and the milestones it has achieved. By rebalancing Native diets with subsistence foods, this project has been a crucial step toward empowering Native Elders and strengthening community resilience and connection.
Kelp and Salmon // Credit: The Native Conservancy
Native Conservancy has expanded its mission of ensuring Native Elders and their families have regular access to locally sourced healthy foods.
One of the critical steps in this expansion was the addition of Marina Madison as Program Assistant. Marina's dedication and expertise were instrumental in streamlining the distribution process, allowing Native Conservancy to accurately track and deliver over 530 portions of fresh fish, 143 crabs, and 487 home-cooked meals throughout 2023.
Marina also invited guest chefs to create delicious dishes using recipes passed down for generations, such as fish pie and salmon gumbo, which celebrated the Eyak heritage and nourished the body and soul.
But the program also delivered modern dishes made with subsistence fish and meat, and according to the surveys, salmon gyoza dumplings were a fan favorite! Miso salmon ramen, halibut burgers, salmon gumbo, seafood chowder, and pesto pasta with salmon meatballs were also on the menu.
In addition to local distributions, Native Conservancy expanded its reach through social media. They shared their journey with a wider audience and connected with like-minded individuals and communities.
Being featured in "Kelp Update" by Jennifer Nu in Edible Alaska magazine was another highlight, allowing them to amplify their message of cultural preservation and food sovereignty.
Jim Smith, Director of Reclaiming Land & Water Ties, explained the program's importance to Edible Alaskan readers far and wide. He spoke about how he has seen the relationship between the land and the water diminish.
The people that are from here and the animals and plants from here—our DNA has been living in tandem for thousands of years. That separation, that severed tie, means you quickly lose knowledge of what life is like in less than one generation.
He elaborated on how his program seeks to rebuild these ties by delivering subsistence food to Native Elders.
It connects [us] to each other and to the past. It brings up stories. It ties us to this place [where] we've been living for 10,000 years. It's delivering nutritious food we are meant to eat.
Jim Smith // Credit: The Native Conservancy
In addition to delivering local distributions, Native Conservancy was able to support its Alaskan neighbors who were devastated by Typhoon Merbok. The City of Nom experienced winds over 70MPH (White, 2023). To this day, the communities are still working to overcome the devastation.
The Nome Inupiaq community didn't have a salmon fishery this year. In response to this intense need for subsistence food, Native Conservancy donated 17 filets to the Nome community, which they shared with their local tribal Elders.
They also contributed eight filets to Calypso farms in Fairbanks for Indigenous subsistence training and then 75 salmon portions for a gathering of Native People from the Yukon River who have lost all access to their traditional subsistence run of fish over the last couple of years.
But perhaps the most rewarding aspect of this journey was the heartfelt gratitude expressed by their Native Elders. From handwritten notes of appreciation to survey responses echoing the sentiment that subsistence foods are "our bloodline," these words serve as a reminder of why this work is so important.
Subsistence foods are what we grew up on. What our ancestors grew up on. They are our bloodline.