Hoonah Community Meal Celebrates Culture and Food

By 11AM on September 26th, parking space around Hoonah Indian Association was at a premium. Community members were arriving, despite the rain and chill of the day, to the 5th annual Traditional Food Fair. The event is an opportunity for Hoonah Indian Association and Huna Heritage Foundation to give back to their community members by sharing a meal, celebrating Tlingit culture, and distributing jarred foods.  It is a time for us to gather, share our traditional foods and enjoy each other’s company. This community gathering brings together all ages for an intergenerational exchange that annually provides fun for all who come.

A Community Lunch

Our traditional foods are our way of life. Feasting on locally harvested food nourishes our bodies, minds, and spirits. We know it takes a community to cook for a community! Our community meal featured abundant quantities of halibut chowder (15 gallons of it), desserts (13 pies), and frybread (175 pieces). The chowder was cooked by Debbie Wright Picken with halibut donated by Raino Hill and Nathan Moulton. Nine pies were made by Debbie and four by Darlene See. The mountain of frybread was cooked by Niccole Williams and crab was provided by Jeromy Grant. The Community Garden provided 20 lbs. of Tlingit Potatoes for the chowder. A green salad was prepared by Darlene and Sonya Johnson to accompany this delicious meal. Cupcakes were made by Brynn Presler- Marshall, Sheryl Contreras, and Darlene See. Thank you everyone!

Along with the cooking, we had herringeggs from Vernon Hill’s crew this spring. A case of coho was donated by Raino Hill and made into delicious spread by Julie Jackson. Seal Oil was donated by Darlene See.

Food Distribution

Throughout the summer, 5 youth from the HIA Alaska Youth Stewards (AYS) crew led by Julian Narvaez partnered with Amelia Wilson at Huna Heritage Foundation to collect and prepare food for the Traditional Food Fair. The AYS crew included local youth Leif Gray, Kelly St. Clair, Ted Elliot, Susan Bradford, and Jermaine Johnson. Their efforts were added to food prepared by the Girls Vitality program and Darlene See. AYS youth members Jermaine, Ted, and Susan were all involved in handing the food out to community members in attendance. Through their work, learning, and dedication, the following were handed out by AYS students and HIA/HHF staff to the community:

72 jars of blueberry jam

72 jars of beach asparagus

73 jars of bull kelp pickles

62 snack bags of Labrador tea

57 jars of fresh pack coho (Donated by HIA, canned by Dodie Lunda and Darlene See)

7 bags of black seaweed as door prizes (dried by Debbie Picken)

Special thanks to Laura Marcus who led the kelp pickling process with help from Gap Year Students at Tidelines Institute, and to Zach Brown for contributing seaweed.

Each of the jars of food had the recipe on them to recreate it because this event is about perpetuating Tlingit culture and putting food and food preparation at the forefront.

Gunalchéesh haa éet yidasheeyí. (Thank you all for helping us.)

Youth and Culture

Led by Lgeik’i (Heather Powell), 16 youth members of the Gaawt’ak.áan dancers shared songs and dance with attendees. The group has been focusing on the hand movements associated with many of the songs and on perpetuating songs for future generations. Gunalchéesh to our youth for sharing their time and energy at the Traditional Food Fair!

Donors and Planners

The Traditional Food Fair is enhanced each year through generous donations and contributions from businesses and local community members. For the cash donations, door prizes, and food, thank you so much to our list of Donors!

This annual gathering is co-sponsored and co-hosted each year by the Huna Heritage Foundation and Hoonah Indian Association. Each organization contributed financially to make this event happen and provided significant time in planning, harvesting and preserving foods to distribute. Thank you to all members of the planning committee including Darlene See, Amelia Wilson, Julie Jackson, Julian Narvaez, Miguel Contreras, and Ian Johnson.

We look forward to sharing a traditional meal and sharing our locally harvested foods every year! In the meantime, please keep celebrating food, culture, and community together on the long winter nights ahead.

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