By CIRI summer intern Ainsley Fullmer
On July 9, CIRI summer interns Rachel Crosley, Aubrey Nay, Jordyn Ransom and I all drove out to Knik, Alaska, to assist Knik Tribal Council (KTC) with Shan Qayeh, its annual summer culture camp.
When we arrived at the Goose Bay landing strip, we were instantly greeted by dozens of little kids and directed to help them pick fireweed leaves. After gathering two boxes’ worth, we made our way down a trail and arrived at three holes dug into the ground (caches).
In the caches, we first laid birch bark, and then the fireweed leaves, which we were told helps prevent food from freezing to the bark. We covered blueberries and dried meat with Crisco (traditionally, this would have been animal fat) to help stave off mold, and then set the food in the caches. Next year’s campers will dig up the caches to see how well the food was preserved.
Mosquitos and horseflies aside, this was a great experience. It is heartening to see Tribes like KTC working to preserve and revitalize Alaska Native culture by sharing time-honored traditions and practices with the next generation.
Shan Qayeh is open to Mat-Su students in grades K-6 who hold a valid Certificate Degree of Indian Blood, which can be obtained from the Bureau of Indian Affiars (BIA). For more information, search for “Knik Tribal Council” on Facebook.