One of our Unangan values is "Qaqamiiĝux̂" meaning "subsistence." We value the ability to connect with the land and sea. As a way to improve access to nutritious foods, we have developed programs and activities that reflect this relationship between people and natural resources available. Our work in this area has involved programs like Berry Picking for Elders, Fishing for Elders, and building a partnership with Seashare that will allow us to provide seafood to our community through a food pantry.
Berry Picking for Elders
Picking berries for Elders is a simple act that connects us with the land and each other and acknowledges long-standing values among the Unangax people. It’s not merely an act of feeding: it’s an act of connection, and a way of Being. It’s an opportunity to tend to the connection we have between ourselves, the environment, and those we share ourselves and the environment with. These atomic habits eventually create an entire world, or at least for us, our community as we know it. We believe that connection as a habit and practice will inch us closer together
Our Berry Picking for Elders program has improved the number of places offering healthy foods by delivering fresh berries to elders when seasonally available. When asked about this program the Tribe’s Cultural Coordinator Shayla Shaishnikoff reflected, “The elders truly appreciate these acts of kindness, and it brings me so much joy to be able to share with them. I think this is the type of activity that needs to be prioritized in our work relating to traditional foods.”
We have also collaborated with APIA Head Start to involve kids in a fun berry picking day during the fall, when the last of the berries were available.
Freshly picked salmonberries are delivered to elder, Theckla's, door.
Head Start drives up Pyramid to our berry bush meet-up locations.
As we grow the culture of berry picking for elders, we are also working to make other long-term impacts on our food systems. We have developed a partnership with nonprofit Seashare that will help us share nutrient rich seafood with community members via a food pantry. Currently, millions of pounds of seafood are processed in Unalaska each year, yet little is available at the local stores. To make this pantry a reality we are working with the Aleutian Housing Authority and Ounalashka Corporation to secure a functional location for the pantry. We have worked tireless on this project and are optimistic that improved access to nutrient rich foods will become a reality for the people that call Unalaska home.
Fishing for Elders
In collaborating with Camp Qungaayux's project of creating camp videos, we were able to set lines out and fish for halibut. We'd use some of the catch for the film, and the rest to share with our elders. Camp Coordinator Shayla Shaishnikoff and Tribe staff Cheyenne Shaishnikoff would often set skates at Nanteekan or Wide Bay, which are known to be hot spots according to their elders.
Cheyanne and Shayla smile with their catch.