Subsistence Life is a Healthy Life

by Peter Twitchell

The majority of people in villages still depend solely on their subsistence way of life. For most of us today, it is crucial to eat subsistence foods to maintain good health practices.

I am thankful for the tundra which is essentially our dining room table in rural Alaska, although a majority of the transients from rural Alaska into Urban cities like Anchorage, maintain the subsistence way of life. It’s like living the best of two worlds, i.e., village and western way.

Mom and dad used to go downriver to Kialiq to get their winter berries, salmonberries mainly every July 22, for at least 10 days. That was enough time to fill their wooden barrels with the juicy orange tundra berries.

Once home, the berries were stored in a cool place. Mom and her sisters Molly and Mary made salmon berry preserves.

While berry picking most people live off the land for the duration of their time out on the tundra. Mom and grandma Hannah and my cousin Juanita picked greens like sour dock and cooked them and removed the hard stock before they made Akutaq, Eskimo Ice Cream which was made mostly from nature’s bounty.

Our people who live on the tundra, live a subsistence way of life. Just buying coffee, tea, flour, vegetable shortening, tobacco products from the grocery stores.

This was a way of life before we turned to the western way of life. Today, young people are not as dependent on the Tundra for sustenance as their Ancestors.