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Posts Tagged ‘salmon berries’

To start reading from the beginning, go to May 11, 2008.

After breakfast one morning, Maggie told me we were
going berry picking across the bay to Cape Denby. (see “Golovin Alaska”
in http://maps.google.com/)

SewardPenSeward Peninsula map

A past dinner table story from Martin told me there once lived an Eskimo man on
Cape Denby. He wore the pierced plugs in the corners of his lower lip.
Rather than the traditional ivory plugs, however, this man wore
diamonds. When the sun shown on Cape Denby, those diamonds would reflect
across the bay to Golovin.

Presently no humans lived on the cape, but there were plenty of berries: blueberries, high bush cranberries and spars salmon berries. Growing up in Colorado,
my mother and sisters and I would drive into the mountains in search of
chokecherries. I enjoyed the picking because it meant Sundays when dad
would make pancakes, french toast or waffles with chokecherry syrup my
mother made. Picking berries and homemade syrup and jam were a tradition
in my house. A day with my aunt Maggie picking berries was a welcome
activity for me. Whereas picking chokecherries in Colorado meant simply
loading the car with enough buckets to manage a day’s picking and lunch
in a cafe, blueberries on Cape Denby required more planning and
equipment.

“My boat” was packed with supplies that included gas
filled jerry jug, buckets, matches, fire wood, water, tea bags, mugs,
jerky, pot for water, bug (“no see-ums” that buzz around eyes and ears)
deterrent and extra pots with bolts. “What are those for?” I asked. “In
case of bears,” Maggie replied. My heart skipped a beat or two. I’d
rather confront a hermit Eskimo with diamonds piercing his lips than grizzlies.

Maggie steered the boat across the calm water to the Cape with calm confidence
while I questioned the sanity of traipsing among shoulder high berry
bushes where bears can meander incognito. I was wearing rubber knee high
boots which I felt inhibited me from a full out run back to the boat —
then again, grizzlies are not deterred by water and could easily jump
into the boat with me. Likewise, I’d never started a boat motor before
and probably couldn’t to say my life — and I needed to in order to save
my life . . . For all the equipment in the boat, we had no rifle. Upon
arriving on the beach at the cape, I was the first to depart the boat
and pulled it up onto the beach. I saw no bear tracks on the narrow
beach. I breathed a little lighter.

Maggie handed me my berry buckets along with the pan with bolts. “Just shake this if we see bears.
The noise will scare them away.” I wasn’t entirely convinced but her
confidence in a metal pan with bolts, calmed my fears–somewhat. I long
ago gave her my trust in caring for my welfare in her home territory.
After an hour or so I forgot about bears and probably left the pan and
bolts within reach but no longer clutched under my arm.

I was quite relaxed during a brief shore lunch. Over a cup of fresh tea made
over an open fire Maggie complimented me on my berry picking. My buckets
of large juicy berries were clean and free of stems and leaves. It was
the small things that would gradually shed my “weak white suburban skin”
perceptions by my native relatives.  After lunch we picked more
berries and finally headed back to Golovin. That night at dinner and a
dessert of ice cream and berries, Maggie bragged to the others of my
berry picking skills. I was proud to be her niece. Only a few years
before my day on Cape Denby I had graduated from college with honors and
awards but that night I held more pride in my berry picking skills. It
would be some months in Golovin before I realized the imbalance of the
placement of my self pride and sense of accomplishment.

(to be continued) copyright Tamara Ann Burgh, all rights reserved

Grandparents by James Kivetoruk Moses, Inupiaq (Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo), 1902-1982

Grandparents by James Kivetoruk Moses, Inupiaq (Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo), 1902-1982

Paperboard,
paint, ink, colored pencil, NATIONAL
MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN

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