Fall subsistence harvest

by Peter Twitchell

Our Indigenous people in Alaska never wasted any part of an animal they hunted. There was no such thing as “trophy hunters.” They caught a fish in their subsistence nets, and cooked it for an evening meal. They were careful not to throw bones where people would walk on to, for fear that if people walked on any part of the fish, the fish would not return.

The Elders always instructed me to throw bones into a lake or bury them. They respected all animals and were never wasteful.

The hunters shared their catches with widows and Elders of the community. For example, when I caught my first crane I was instructed by my Grandmother and my Mother that my first catches would go to Elders. Mom instructed me to give my first crane to Grandma Lucy Beaver who was so grateful for the crane. She was so thankful and shared a prayer with me that creator God would grant me wisdom and asked that I would be a successful hunter, throughout my life. I appreciated her prayer.

This tradition was practiced by all first time hunters in our Yup’ik Tribe.

When I started hunting bigger game like Moose I was once again instructed by my Grandma Hannah and my Mom that my first catch would be distributed among the Elders and widows of our community of Bethel.

I was also told that in future successful hunts I was to give the best part of the animal to Elders, which could be the fat ribs, brisket, leg cut up with bone marrow, and never ever to give a rotten piece of meat of wild venison to Elders or widows.

I was told that this fall’s moose hunt was a successful one for many hunters. I am thankful to Creator God for providing sustenance to our people, also for the plentiful blueberries for all the berry pickers.

I know that all migrating birds like geese fill up themselves with berries from the tundra during their migration. I believe that the berries add to the birds’ great taste.

Our indigenous people of Alaska are blessed with their subsistence life from our tundra and streams and rivers that provide us with fish and animals to take us through the winters however limited openings for harvesting may be.