The dictionary describes subsistence as the action or fact of maintaining or supporting oneself at a minimum level. We Indigenous peoples of Alaska believe that subsistence living is not a marginal way of life. Our beliefs center around the close relationship between ourselves, the land, and the waters around us. We believe that this relationship is so close that it perpetuates our cultural values that have been passed down for millennia through repetition of stories and observances of the actions between the people and the land and the waters. The food that we receive from the lands and waters around us feed not only our physical bodies, but our cultural souls.
As times change and more and more Western ideas come into contact with Indigenous generations, including a new palate for differing diets, we find that we must struggle to keep our Indigenous tastes alive and active in our younger generation. Above you see a gathering of shorebird eggs, collected in the spring of each year. These ones happen to be oystercatcher eggs. Eggs can taste very different between species so it is always good to collect more than one type and to introduce them to your youngsters when they are youngsters. We have found that during times when we have experienced catastrophes such as oil spills that impact beaches and uplands, it only takes a couple of years of being unable to gather beach edibles, eggs, and plants before little ones will refuse to eat food that is not familiar in their diet.
So we try to be creative and forward thinking. Here we have paired the oystercatcher eggs with tanner crab, (Chionoecetes bairdi) and local hydroponically grown salad greens. Add a few olives and some homemade dressing and you have a very familiar Western food dish, worthy of any Michelin-starred restaurant. And honestly and truly organic.
It is the best way of life.
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