Winter Rainforest Postcard

Vivian Mork Yéilk’ & Vivian Faith Prescott


Making Jams & Jellies in Winter

By Vivian Mork Yéilk’

Even in the winter, we are surrounded by a living world. Underneath the snow, everything is still alive. The sandpipers have migrated, and the berries have dropped on the ground or into our buckets. We have packed away our berries in our freezers. In the winter, we try our best to stay healthy in mind and body. In Southeast Alaska, we often use this time to make jams and jellies to gift to family, friends, and our local tribes. Our belief is that if we don’t share, then the land won’t provide again next year.

Our Tlingit values of respect, balance, and sharing are embedded in our berry harvesting. We share with Elders and with others at our ceremonies as a part of our Tlingit gift economy. Southeast Alaska’s berries provide vitamins and minerals and give balance to our subsistence diet. So, in winter, we often gift bags of berries to Elders. In Tlingit Aaní, the more we give the richer we are. We live a life where our values are reflected in how we treat one another. Sharing is one way to take care of the land—A káx yan aydél wé tl’átgi. We are stewards of the air, land, and sea.

Labrador Tea Mixed Berry Jam

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

2 cups of Labrador tea

8 cups mixed berries

2 Tbsp powdered pectin

Directions:

In a large pot, combine sugar and tea up to a simmer and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the berries, and let simmer until it thickens. This typically takes 10 minutes. Stir in pectin and bring it to a hard boil. Cook one minute or until the liquid reaches 220 degrees. Remove from heat. 


Winter: A Season of Storytelling

By Vivian Faith Prescott and Vivian Mork Yéilk’

Winter is a season of storytelling. For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples told stories deep into the winter night, carrying wisdom to the next generation.

Fox ran along the snow just like foxes like to do when he slid into a snowbank.

We’ve survived on our traditional lands for thousands of years being skillful storytellers.

The fox’s tail swished against the snowbank and snow particles flew up into the air and twinkled with starlight.

Wisdom resides in our knowledge systems, and at the core are our values. Storytelling is an important way to learn proper behavior among animals, plants, other human beings, and even celestial bodies.

The frosty snow twirled and flashed and whirled and became the first northern lights.

Stories are our survival lessons. Stories entertain, they teach, and they heal. If we listen closely, we can learn to balance our lives and the proper manner to conduct ourselves on the planet. We can learn how to treat our neighbors and the land around us with respect.

Never say anything bad about the northern lights.

Stories have the power to transmit knowledge and strengthen a culture. Today, we tell stories in many ways when we make art in the winter: We carve, we bead, we weave, we write, we photograph, and we collage. We mold and etch metals, we draw, we write songs, and we make dance robes. We talk story, reminiscing with our Elders in winter. Winter is a time to strengthen our minds and spirits.

The northern lights are always watching us here on earth. They are the eyes of our ancestors.

Vivian Mork Yéilk’ & Vivian Faith Prescott

Vivian Mork Yéilk, Cute-Little-Raven, is Tlingit from the Raven moiety. She belongs to the T’akdeintaan clan from the Snail House. She’s a child of the Teikweidí and grandchild of the Kaagwaantaan. She’s also Sámi, Hawaiian, and Irish. She was born and raised in Wrangell, Alaska, but her kwáan comes from Glacier Bay region. She lives part-time in Wrangell and Sitka. Yéilk’ is a two-spirit ethnobotanist, traditional foods and medicines educator, writer, artist, and storyteller. She holds an M.A. in Cross Cultural Studies with an emphasis in Indigenous Knowledge Systems. She conducts plant talks and walks for the Southeast Alaskan communityand beyond.

Vivian Faith Prescott lives in Lingít Aaní on the land of the Shtax’heen Kwáan in Wrangell, Alaska at her family’s fishcamp. She is a member of the Pacific Sámi Searvi. Her children are T’akdeintaan/Snail House (Raven). She is adopted into the T’akdeintaan clan. She has an MFA from the University of Alaska Anchorage and a MA in Cross Cultural Studies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She also holds an interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Along with her daughter, Vivian Mork Yéilk’, she co-hosts the award-winning Planet Alaska Facebook page and Planet Alaska column appearing in the Juneau Empire.