FORUM Magazine | Summer 2022

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Aisles of Time | Let Them Eat Barnacles | Mapping the Grease Trail | The Whole Enchilada

421 W. 1st Ave., Suite 200, Anchorage, AK 99501 907-272-5341 |

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Judith Owens-Manley, Chair, Anchorage Ben Mallott, Vice Chair, Anchorage Laci Michaud, Secretary, Anchorage Aminata Taylor, Treasurer, Iowa City Jeffrey Siemers, Member-at-Large, Soldotna Rachael Ball, Anchorage Kristina Bellamy, Anchorage Thea Agnew Bemben, Anchorage

MAGNETIC NORTH: VIC FISCHER Magnetic North is a documentary film series that explores Alaskans whose actions and ideas have shaped the history of our state. A new episode profiling Alaska Constitutional Convention delegate, legislator, and activist Vic Fischer (above, with Jane Angvik at a Leadership Anchorage conversation) is streaming now at

Stephen Qacung Blanchett, Juneau Keneggnarkayaaggaq Emily Edenshaw, Anchorage Kitty Farnham, Anchorage Charleen Fisher, Beaver Peter Metcalfe, Juneau Francisco Miranda, Anchorage Don Rearden, Anchorage Carrie Shephard, Anchorage Sheri Skelton, Anchorage Jeannine Stafford-Jabaay, Hope Sharon Thompson, Anchorage Renee Wardlaw, Anchorage



Kameron Perez-Verdia, President & CEO Shoshi Bieler, Youth Program Coordinator Emily Brockman, Youth Program Manager Megan Cacciola, Vice President of Programs Jazmine Camp, Education Program Manager Amanda Dale, Director of Cross-Cultural Programs Kim Fasbender, Operations Coordinator Kelly Forster, Education Program Manager Oliviah Franke, Conversation Programs Coordinator Olivia Garrett, Youth Program Manager Helen John, Youth Program Coordinator Kari Lovett, Director of Operations Emily Lucy, Youth Program Coordinator George Martinez, Vice President of Communications and Community Engagement Rachael McPherson, Vice President of Development Aud Pleas, Workshop Coordinator Chuck Seaca, Director of Leadership Programs Taylor Strelevitz, Director of Conversation Programs Molissa Udevitz, Youth Program Designer Cheryl Williams, Leadership Programs Coordinator

FORUM MAGAZINE STAFF George Martinez, Publisher Jeremy Pataky, Guest Editor Dean Potter, Art Director Nancy Hemsath, Copy Editor

Learn more about becoming a Kindling Conversation host

Contributors: Ash Adams, Corinna Cook, Bethany Sonsini Goodrich, Lila Hobbs, Rachael McPherson, S. Hollis Mickey, Jennifer Nu, Gabriela Olmos, David Reamer





The invitation to guest edit this special food-themed issue of FORUM is an honor. I see the work of the Alaska Humanities Forum and the work my copublisher and I do at Edible Alaska as profoundly related. Every person must eat to live, of course. We also need stories in order to survive. The ones collected here only begin to evoke the diverse, complex lives that people live and have lived in Alaska, but they show how foodways can delight, anchor, and connect us to each other and to place. We’re lucky to be alive, eaters all of us, right here, together. —Jeremy Pataky Waffles served at Chicken Shack in Anchorage. See page 8.



FORUM is a publication of the Alaska Humanities Forum, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, with the purpose of increasing public understanding of and participation in the humanities. The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the editorial staff, the Alaska Humanities Forum, or the National Endowment for the Humanities. Subscriptions may be obtained by contributing to the Alaska Humanities Forum or by contacting the Forum. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission. ©2022.

Decorations at the restaurant Mexico in Alaska. See page 32. PHOTO BY ASH ADAMS


Barnacles for Dinner Make space on your plate for something new By Bethany Sonsini Goodrich


“All You Can Eat for Your Money” A survey of the humble waffle in Alaska By David Reamer

12 Waffle Witness Stalking the wild waffle in its Alaska habitat By Ash Adams

17 Recipe for Success at the Alaska Humanities Forum With bonus pesto recipe By Rachael McPherson

18 Winter in the Grocery Aisle Musings from 90-year old receipts By S. Hollis Mickey

22 Cartographic Convergences The southern Yukon’s first map By Corinna Cook

26 Hunt, Eat, and Sew Alaska Native hunter-artist Christy Ruby stitches together tradition and innovation By Jennifer Nu

32 Mi Casa Es Tu Casa How Mexican food fosters radical hospitality By Gabriela Olmos

36 The Power of Connection Creating young, culturally strong leaders in Alaska By Lila Hobbs

41 Gary Holthaus 1932-2022 Remembering the Forum’s founding director A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22



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Bite into the bizarre | Words and photos by Bethany Sonsini Goodrich

BARNACLES FOR DINNER Alaskans often decorate dinner plates with time-tested foods from the lands and waters that surround us. Some recipes have been passed forward for generations—arguably for thousands of years. In Southeast Alaska, a diver, cannery, and chef insist that you make space on your plate for something new. Meet the gooseneck barnacle.

Evan O’Brien harvests gooseneck barnacles under a conservative experimental fishery permit from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. While collecting and selling barnacles, he also harvests information on species distribution, resource health, markets, and more. While O’Brien’s is the first experimental barnacle permit in the state, fisheries exist for gooseneck barnacles down the coast. In Canada, small fisheries are co-managed with First Nations. Oregon and Washington have — E VA N O ’ B R I E N also explored possibilities for this small fishery. O’Brien uses a handmade tool to cleanly harvest barnacles from rocks. His quota this year is 1500 pounds spread out across a wide area. His permit applies a precautionary approach, allowing him to harvest one percent of the barnacles in a given area. Every ten square feet, he collects one square foot of barnacles. He targets clumps growing on

“I think my niche going forward is pursuing what is weird and different.”

other barnacles that can be harvested in ways that limit damage to their base. This way, his catch can survive long journeys via FedEx or Alaska Air Cargo. He ships to chefs, restaurants, and individuals in the Lower 48 through E-Fish—an online distributor that connects fresh seafood with foodies and others. He also hand delivers down the road to Renee Trafton of Beak Restaurant in Sitka, and ships to Mathew Scaletta of Wildfish Cannery in Klawock. He’s eager to identify more Alaska buyers for his peculiar catch. O’Brien also dives for sea cucumbers and fishes for a second experimental permit he holds for swimmer scallops. His business is called Merrick Shellfish. “I think my niche going forward is pursuing what is weird and different. It doesn't make sense for me to try to compete with processors for seafood like salmon or halibut. If you are curious and creative though, there are opportunities to experiment and this is just a fun opportunity to expose people to totally new and unusual foods.”

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A wall of gooseneck barnacles cling stubbornly to exposed rocks on a small island on the outskirts of Sitka Sound. Two main varieties of gooseneck barnacles populate the west coast from Alaska to Baja. Pelagic goosenecks hitchhike on flotsam and jetsam, driftwood, glass bottles, bits of beach trash, and more. Those harvested commercially glue themselves to crags, cracks, and cliffs—concentrating in areas exposed to heavy wave action. Barnacles, like crabs, are crustaceans. They filter feed nutrition from turbulent waters. The species found in the Pacific differs slightly from the species harvested in Spain and Portugal.

Gooseneck barnacles filter feed within a colorful tidepool on the outer coast. Little is known about the abundance, distribution, and reproduction of Southeast Alaska’s barnacles. This is why O’Brien’s permit is experimental, conservative, and precautionary. Careful management to ensure the sustainability of the resource is critical. O’Brien is optimistic though. “When Fish and Game issued the permit, they thought the populations would be very patchy—but that isn’t true in my experience if you know what to look for.” For now, O’Brien stewards the resource by spreading his impact even beyond the requirements of his permit. He knows, however, that scaling the harvest to include new divers and permits will require coordination, closures, and care. Populations have been depleted in parts of Europe due to a combination of harvesting pressure, poaching, and environmental and habitat threats such as rising ocean temperature and salinity. Like everything good in life, gooseneck barnacles will need to be enjoyed in moderation. An important part of eating any local wild food is recognizing our responsibility to take care of it.


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Wildfish Cannery is located in the rural community of Klawock on Prince of Wales Island. Chef Mathew Scaletta, owner and operator of the quaint cannery he inherited from his grandma, balances a stack of tinned seafood. Wildfish specializes in value-added Alaska seafood products that span the classic staples like smoked sockeye to the new and different—herring, rockfish, white king, Evan’s scallops, geoducks, octopus, and soon, gooseneck barnacles. “With the octopus and geoducks especially, we are excited to bring foods to market that might otherwise be wasted or be low value. For example, the geoducks we use are blown and broken. The octopus is actually an incidental catch from a pot cod fishery. I think the seafood industry can sometimes get stuck in their ways and focus solely on business as usual, mass quantity, and catering to traditional pallets and demands. But there’s room for entrepreneurship and invention. Alaska is full of unique flavors to explore and celebrate and when done with care, this can also be respectful of the resource and the communities closest to them.” Wildfish plans to release their canned barnacles later this year. The flavor of the tinned gooseneck barnacles differs widely from fresh barnacles. They have a briney oceanic flavor and delicate texture. Scaletta and O’Brien are excited about tinning barnacles as a shelf stable option for sharing this unique delicacy. The product will be very limited in release and fetch a high price. Tinned barnacles certainly won’t replace smoked salmon in an average Alaska pantry, but it could present a treat for special occasions.

“Alaska is full of unique flavors to explore and celebrate and when done with care, this can also be respectful of the resource and the communities closest to them.” — M AT H E W S C A L E T TA

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Renee Trafton prepares fresh barnacles as a dinner special at Beak Restaurant in Sitka, Alaska. She cooks barnacles in the same manner she prepares crab (they are crustaceans after all)— lowered into a rolling boil of salted water containing lemon, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Gooseneck barnacles are an easy special edition for a restaurant whose motto is “be adventurous, be sustainable, be healthy, be local, be AK.” Sourcing local is important for Trafton, who enjoys fostering human to human relationships with fishermen and divers like O’Brien. She believes the practice is good for the community and environment by limiting the distance seafood travels, circulating more money locally, and also by fostering a deeper connection to the lands and waters that sustain us. “Our mission is to extend a taste of the Southeast Alaska lifestyle for our guests. For locals, that’s about welcoming people into our place and fostering community around food. For visitors, we have an opportunity to introduce them to Sitka and how we live. This might be the one meal that they eat here. So if you can give them a perfectly cooked piece of king salmon or introduce them to gooseneck barnacles—they're going to remember that.”


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How do you eat a dragon? Grab it by the toe or capitulum. Remain calm.


At Beak Restaurant, the kitchen crew take a break to try out their newest dish. Percebes, dragon toes, goosenecks, barnacles— whatever you call these oceanic treats, try them fresh. How do you eat a dragon toe? Grab it by the toe or capitulum. Remain calm. Remove the outer textured sheath to reveal the tasty slender neck of meat. Add a little squirt of lemon, a dash of cocktail sauce, dip it in butter, or add nothing at all before munching the meat and twisting off the toe. Fresh, the meat tastes like crab or lobster. Caution (especially for people on first dates) the dragon toes might squirt a little.

Homemade seafood pasta made with friends, featuring rock scallop, abalone, and freshly harvested barnacles from our oceanic backyard. Many Southeast Alaskans hunt, fish, and harvest wild foods from the Tongass National Forest and the surrounding waters. While venison and salmon constitute staples, the opportunity to share and indulge in new flavors and foods helps keep life fresh and interesting. ■

A Portuguese fishmonger displays the day’s local catch. In seaside regions of Spain and Portugal, gooseneck barnacles, or percebes, are a delicacy. They fetch a high price at market, sometimes breaking $100 a pound. They also cost a heavy toll on percebeiros, the people who risk life and limb to harvest stocky barnacles from precarious, exposed rocks. Regulated and argued over, the world of percebes is not a new one to these regions. Characterized by auctions, quotas, regulatory associations, poachers, rangers, violence, camaraderie, secrecy, honor, and prestige—each percebe is steeped in a long and storied history before hitting eager taste buds.

Bethany Sonsini Goodrich is passionate about the power of story for inspiring local and global change. She directs a storytelling for impact program with the Sustainable Southeast Partnership ( and freelances as a photographer and writer. When she’s not behind the camera, she’s outside harvesting food or playing across Southeast Alaska. Online at and Instagram at @bethanySgoodrich. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


“All You Can Eat for Your Money” A survey of the humble waffle in Alaska By David Reamer

ne of the most reproduced photographs of early Anchorage depicts two women in front of a wood-walled, white canvastopped tent. It was 1915, and the temporary tent city along Ship Creek comprised most of the newly established railroad hub. The women’s white aprons stand out against the surrounding terrain, rough and jagged from recent clearcutting. Their faces are serious, perhaps even fatigued. Above their heads hangs a sign: Two Girls Waffle House. Since its settler introduction, the simple waffle has enjoyed a steady presence in Alaska, accessible, affordable, and correspondingly popular for over a century. The diner staple remains a constant even as Alaska and the world around it have rapidly evolved.


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Though a humble offering in and of itself, the waffle binds and connects us to the past. When we eat waffles, we eat like our predecessors. We eat like gold miners. We eat like people for whom the automobile, let alone rockets and cell phones, was a dream. The waffle is also but a method of conveyance, a way to transfer flavors ranging from savory to sweet. It is near infinitely flexible and, like Alaska, is what you make of it. As a foodstuff for colonial settlers, the pancake existed for its expediency. It was and is inexpensive, simple, and quick to make, all on a griddle that can be used to prepare other dishes. Though the waffle shares many of the same appealing attributes as the pancake, the waffle iron is a more specialized instrument. That is to say, many prospectors made and consumed pancakes because they surpassed the necessary ratio of calories versus cost. Logistics suggested pancakes as a logical option, but the heavy waffle iron, and by extension waffles, was a matter of choice.

Waffles were not a delicacy. Their appeal was a mixture of taste and availability.


Thomas Jefferson is sometimes credited with introducing waffles to Americans, albeit without abundant evidence. In 1789, he indeed returned from Europe with four waffle irons bought in Amsterdam, though the link between these purchases and the subsequent popularization of waffles is tenuous. Variations of waffle irons have existed for millennia, but the modern version dates to Cornelius Swarthout’s 1869 patent for a stovetop waffle iron. His revolving hinge and handle design allowed cooks to rotate the iron with less risk of burns, previously a common occurrence. Though smaller than their predecessors, the post-Swarthout waffle irons remained heavy, a given since they consisted of two solid iron plates. Overheating handles were still an issue. Wooden ones could char, while metal grips quickly transferred the heat from the flame to unfortunate hands. Some manufacturers included a handle variation named for Alaska, though its origin appears to have as much to do with Alaska as that of Baked Alaska or the Alaska Cocktail, which is to say none at all. An Alaska handle looks like

a coiled spring, a design that cooled more quickly than solid handles. And since it was cooler, it was thus reminiscent of Alaska. Some Alaskans certainly enjoyed a few waffles before the late 19th century, whether introduced by whalers, traders, soldiers, miners, missionaries, or other transplants. Reports from the Pribilof Islands in the early 1880s listed waffles among the available “creature comforts.” However, their popularity here truly bloomed as waves of gold rush prospectors ventured to Alaska in the 1890s. Dawson, Skagway, Nome, Fairbanks: no matter the boomtown, there were waffle houses in it, sometimes next door to one another. Commercial yeast was decades away, while baking powder and baking soda were inconsistently available. So, the new arrivals generally relied on sourdough to leaven their baked goods. Accordingly, among all the other gear eagerly offered by West Coast outfitters, many fortune hunters also carried sourdough starters north. The starter, or sponge as some called it, was typically transported in tins, sturdy wooden firkins, or packed within bags of flour. Due to the complicated, costly logistics of shipping goods to the frequently remote Alaska and Canadian mining towns, a sourdough starter was a treasured possession. On winter nights, some prospectors slept with their starter to prevent it from dying in the cold. To this day, some starters possess a lineage to the Klondike Gold Rush. And, of course, “sourdough” quickly earned another lasting definition. Jack Hines, who spent several years looking for gold around the Seward Peninsula, wrote in his 1948 autobiography, Minstrel of the Yukon, “A sourdough is a man who has spent at least one winter in the far North. There was no yeast in the Nome region, and the word developed from the old prospector’s habit of letting dough for flapjacks ferment by itself before use. Until a man became a sourdough, he was a chechaquo.” LIKE A FEATHERY SPONGE

To be clear, waffles were not a delicacy. Their appeal was a mixture of taste and availability. Still, in the early years of the twentieth century, waffles, waffle shops, and waffle recipes were rife in the settler towns. The notable waffle-featuring eateries in Valdez included Webb’s Waffle House and the Hot Chili and Waffle House, the latter open twenty-four hours a day. There was the Royal Café in Nome, the Alaskan Grill in Cordova, the Waffle Grill and the Fairbanks A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


Coffee House in Fairbanks, the Commerce Café in Seward, the New York Restaurant in Ketchikan, and the Luncheonette in Juneau, among many other restaurants, to say nothing of the myriad street vendors. Waffle pricing from this period is inconsistently available. In a rare example from 1901, the Grand Hotel in Valdez offered waffles with syrup, butter, and coffee for 15 cents, roughly equivalent to $8.50 in 2022 after accounting for inflation. From 1911 to 1912, the Alaska Citizen newspaper in Fairbanks repeatedly advised how to properly cook a waffle. “Beat well; and the batter will be like a feathery sponge. Be sure that the waffle irons are hot, and grease them lightly. Cook the waffles until they are brown on both sides, and serve them without a moment’s delay, that they may retain their crispness.” Recipes using a variety of ingredients were widely shared, a reflection of the waffle’s adaptability. In Wrangell, the Alaska Sentinel offered a version made with rice. To wit, mix a cup of boiled rice, three egg yolks, two tablespoons of melted butter, two cups of milk, one and a half cups of flour, and a spoonful of baking powder. Then beat the remaining egg whites and fold them into the batter. The 1935 Business-Professional Woman’s Club of Juneau cookbook suggested wine, specifically sherry or Madeira, in the place of sourdough, baking powder, or baking soda. One of the more common waffle variants promulgated around Alaska utilized corn meal. A 1918 Anchorage Daily Times recipe for sour-milk corn waffles called for two cups of sour milk, one and a half cups of flour, a half-cup of corn meal, a teaspoon of baking soda, a half-teaspoon of baking powder, a tablespoon of sugar, a well-beaten egg, and a pinch of salt. Where and when syrup could not be imported or locally made, Alaskans made do with alternatives, such as powdered sugar, jams, and jellies. One of the simplest, and therefore most common, homemade substitutes was caramel syrup, just water and sugar mixed and heated until it reached the desired thickness. More industrious Alaskans, or at least those with more time, collected nectar-filled flowers and boiled them down into a syrup with a taste and consistency like honey. TWO GIRLS

The continuing popularity of waffles is perhaps best exhibited in early Anchorage, though its first famous waffle eatery did not


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last long. Ollie Gray Lundy and Viola Hickey relocated from Seattle for the opportunities of the railroad boomtown, each seeking work as camp cooks. By the spring of 1915, they had combined forces to establish the Two Girls Waffle House in the Ship Creek tent city. When the town relocated to the bluff south of Ship Creek, the entrepreneurs “put their house on a wagon and dropped it down” on Fourth Avenue. They later relocated to a permanent building down the road, between C and D Streets, and renamed the business the Two Girls Café. Waffles were a featured offering regardless of the changing sign out front. In the fall of 1915, visiting newspaperman Frank Carpenter toured Anchorage for a feature on the new town. In his opinion, Ludy and Hickey offered the best breakfast in Alaska. He described the temporary Two Girls Waffle House location on Fourth Avenue as “one room not over seven by ten feet in size with a kitchen and shed at the back. In the front is a rude counter, covered with an oilcloth, at which the customers sit. There is room for just eight, but the counter is always filled at mealtime, and there are often men waiting outside.” Regarding the food, he noted, “They will serve you an order of waffles hot from the griddle, with good butter and sirup and a cup of coffee on the side, for 25 cents, or if you will you may have ham and eggs and coffee for a half dollar.” Twentyfive cents then translates to about seven dollars in 2022. Ludy and Hickey’s greatest waffle-related stunt came during the 1916 Labor Day parade. The women covered a car, “from the wheels to the body,” with waffles. As described by the Daily Times, they sat together in the back seat, making for a “very good and original display.” By late 1916, Ludy had sold her share of the business to Hickey, and in August 1917, Hickey sold the café entire. The new owners remodeled it into the Popular Grill with a new focus on soft drinks and cigars. However, like many businesses in Anchorage then, the shop was also a front for less legitimate enterprises. In April 1919, a deputy U.S. Marshal arrested five men there, including

Anchorage Daily Times, December 22, 1922.

the two proprietors, for especially brazen gambling, the end of the Popular Grill. The loss of the Two Girls Café did not leave the small town bereft of waffle options. At the peak of its original railroad boom, around 1916, there were perhaps six to seven thousand people around Anchorage. Railroad construction moved north, and many workers followed. With additional attrition from war and plague, the Anchorage area was down to about 2,500 residents per the 1920 Census. Yet there was a consistent wealth of waffle options. WAFFLE INNOVATIONS

Just within the town’s first decade, from 1915 to 1925, there was the Svea Waffle and Lunch Room at the corner of Fourth Avenue and C Street, the Luncheonette Waffle House on Fourth Avenue between E and F Streets, the Java Inn on Fourth Avenue, the Anchorage Bakery on Fourth Avenue between G and H Streets, and the Juneau Waffle House on the corner of Fifth Avenue and C Street. The latter The women advertised, “All You Can Eat For Your Money.” covered a car, The next innovation in “from the wheels waffles came around this time, the introduction of to the body,” the electric waffle iron. Though invented several with waffles. years prior, the electric waffle iron first reached stores around 1918, an early signal of rerouted wartime production capacity. By 1919, electric irons were already available in Alaska, though primarily in the more prominent port cities. That year, newlyweds E. W. Hughes and Laura Elwood of Anchorage were delighted to receive an electric waffle iron “among many other useful and ornamental articles.” Electric waffle irons streamlined the already simple baking process. If anything, electric irons, despite their cost, further democratized the enjoyment of waffles. In 1919, the Alaska Electric Light & Power utility in Juneau staged demonstrations of electric irons. By the mid-1920s, most newspapers in Alaska regularly included advertisements for the appliance. A representative 1921 advertisement for Anchorage’s Loussac’s Drug Store listed an electric Westinghouse universal waffle iron for $16, about $270 in 2022 dollars.

Waffles maintained a persistent presence in Alaska over the ensuing decades. There were waffle dinners and socials, waffle hints and recipes in magazines and newspapers, and cookbooks were seemingly required to include waffle recipes. Advertisements repeated throughout 1931 in the Anchorage Daily Times reminded readers, “Every cook knows that it is risky to pour all the milk at once into the flour when making waffles. In spite of vigorous stirring the batter will invariably contain lumps.” In 1948, the Petersburg Press noted, “Happy is the housemaker who knows how much waffles can do for her menus.” Waffle science made another leap forward with the 1953 release of Froffles, a frozen waffle product soon renamed Eggos. Several Alaska grocers—in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Petersburg—had previously experimented with frozen waffle offerings. However, these waffles were locally sourced and not intended for long-term frozen storage. Eggo-style frozen waffles, designed for mass production and lengthy, stable stints in frozen food aisles, transformed American breakfast standards. Waffles remain readily available in Alaska, whether fresh at home, frozen at the grocery store, or at one of the myriad restaurant options. A century ago, the popularity of waffles in Anchorage exemplified the food’s status in Alaska. Now, Anchorage is home to a surge of trendy waffle houses and food trucks, including Waffles and Whatnot, Waffle Rush, and Sugar House Waffles. Notably, Derrick Green’s Waffles and Whatnot was featured in the 42nd season of the Food Network show, “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” At times, it seems as if the world has gone mad in its attempts to devise new, more modern obstacles. Yet we have survived. Find solace in the aspects of daily life that, while small parts of the whole, remained through evolving contexts. The familiar and mundane should be better appreciated. In this way, take comfort that no matter where the future of Alaska goes, surely there will be waffles. ■ David Reamer is an academic and public historian interested in the intersections of social justice, material culture, and community construction. He writes daily on Twitter (@ ANC_historian), weekly for the Anchorage Daily News, and periodically elsewhere on a range of topics, from housing discrimination to raccoons and now waffles. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


Waffle Witness Stalking the wild waffle in its Alaska habitat

Photographs by Ash Adams

Waffles, ready to go out to the dining area at Chicken Shack in Anchorage.

OPPOSITE : Mandy Gebauer demonstrates how she transports her waffles. Sugar House Waffles, open for about eight years, has been a labor of love for owner Gebauer. The business has gone through transitions over the years. After she sold her food truck, she operated under a cottage exemption, which allows her to sell to customers through her Square site. Another food truck, storefront, or other iteration of the business is not out of the question, she says. But working for herself in a separated home kitchen has allowed her to support her family while staying close to them.


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Waffles and Whatnot in Anchorage’s Muldoon neighborhood offers sweet and savory waffles in a cozy, familyfriendly dining area. One rule: if it's your first time in, you don't get to choose—the kitchen will make your first waffle selection for you.

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LEFT : The Sage & Sausage Stuffed Waffle, ham with eggs and hashbrowns, Maple Bacon Waffle, The Honey Butter & Pecans Waffle, Bananas Foster Waffle, and AK Berries and Cream Waffle at Waffle Rush in Mountain View in Anchorage. Waffle Rush offers Belgian Liege Waffles made with imported pearl sugar. Co-owner and Chef Alex says that he studied the waffle for years to come up with the recipe Waffle Rush serves.

Waffles and Whatnot’s strip-mall location ( LEFT ) in Anchorage’s Muldoon neighborhood belies the character evident in the kitchen ( BELOW ).

Ash Adams is a photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Anchorage and San Francisco. Adams' work has been featured in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, ESPN, Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, TIME, Vogue, GEO, Stern, Aljazeera America, and more. Adams is a recipient of a National Geographic Society grant and was named one of Time’s 51 Instagram photographers to follow in 2016. In 2019, Adams was awarded a Sony Alpha Female Creator-in-Residence award.


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Recipe for Success at the Alaska Humanities Forum With bonus pesto recipe! | By Rachael McPherson The Alaska Humanities Forum has a fairly simple recipe for financial health and wellbeing. Much like the perfect summer recipe (in my opinion), it takes some simple ingredients and puts them together to create something that builds strong community. BASIL PESTO Garlic Olive Oil Basil

PESTO RECIPE Blend a few garlic cloves together with a splash of olive oil in a food processor and process until smooth. Stuff as much basil as you can into the food processor and weigh down with a small sprinkle of pine nuts. Process until smooth (adding more oil if needed and scraping down the sides). Stir in grated parmesan to bring it all together. Serve over pasta or potatoes with fresh salmon

AKHF FINANCIAL SUCCESS Contracts Grants National Endowment for the Humanities

Pine Nuts

Program Fees

Parmesan Cheese

Donor Support

To me basil pesto means summer, community, and Alaska. It is a dish my Grandma made every summer—usually paired with fresh salmon. It was one of my kids’ first foods and my own go-to during the summer when life is busy. I freeze it to have a taste of summer year round. The ingredients are simple, but together they create something special. This is much like the Alaska Humanities Forum. It takes time and work to gather all of our financial success ingredients, but when we do, it creates space for the Forum to build community and create lasting change. The financial partnerships we create lay the groundwork for workshops, youth programming, leadership development, and more. What are the ingredients to the Forum? CONTRACTS: Much like garlic in pesto, contracts add some spice and flavor. The Forum contracts with organizations and groups all over Alaska to create specialized programming to fill a need. Many of these partnerships are multi-year and include our C3 and Youth work. GRANTS: The olive oil of the Forum, grants provide funds to do focused projects

and fill in specific community needs. A current grant project is Magnetic North (, which is a documentary film series that explores the personality and character of Alaskans whose actions and ideas have shaped the history, spirit, and values of our state.

NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES: Much like the fluffy basil in pesto, these funds come through federal appropriations and blend into our programming as a whole to support humanities work and support a long-lasting and strong base.

Rachael McPherson is VP of Development with the Alaska Humanities Forum and a lifelong Alaskan. Rachael is passionate about philanthropy and believes it is about connections and creating stronger communities. She and her spouse, Iain, have two young kids and family throughout Alaska and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

PROGRAM FEES: The pine nuts of the recipe, these fees are small, but help ensure people have a buy-in to the programs for which they’ve registered. These fees are kept to a minimum and scholarships are always available. We find participants are more active when they put their own resources into programs. DONORS: Corporate and individual donors are the parmesan cheese of the

Alaska Humanities Forum. Pesto might look done with the basil and other ingredients—but it is still bitter and needs the cheese to really bring it together. Thank you to all of the individuals and businesses who sprinkle us with their financial support. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22



Musings from 90-year old receipts By S. Hollis Mickey

fter living in Alaska for a while, I have learned to settle for kale or cabbage instead of baby spinach. I have stopped plotting my weeks’ meals precisely and I now go to the grocery store without a plan. At first, this more spontaneous approach felt haphazard. I grew up in a Lower 48 home with a mother who carefully calligraphed a week of meal plans and grocery lists on Sunday night. We made a weekly grocery trip (or two) and the receipts from those trips read like reiterations of my mother’s lists. Most produce must make its way thousands of miles to Alaska store shelves. Indeed, 95% of the food purchased in Alaska comes from out of state. A single, minor disruption in the supply chain can leave shelves bare. Even when produce makes it to Alaska without delay, the quality can suffer from the long journey through freezing temperatures. Now, my grocery receipts read erratically, especially in winter. In January, I may walk into the store with all the best intentions to come away with pounds of beets, onions, parsnips, and carrots for a hearty vegetable borscht but come away instead with ingredients for mac and cheese and two and a half pounds of grapes. With luck, the grapes aren’t moldy or watery. My receipts offer a little window into my consumption and allude to the joys and disappointments of winter grocery shopping in Alaska. A collection of receipts from Empress Grocery of Anchorage kept from four days in January and two days in August 1929 provide a glimpse into the city’s shopping experience when the population hovered at a little over 2,700. These dozens of receipts were found by John McCool in a crawl space in the Lathrop Building prior to its demolition and donated to the Atwood Resource Center. Each receipt has a date, the name of a customer, their purchases, and sometimes a city or address. Today, these aging carbon copies feel like archival treasure—handwritten slips that open up stories about day-today life. Not many records exist about Empress Grocery itself. The opening date of the store is unclear, though a court case involving the sale of the business suggests it was open around 1924. Archived phone books give the address of the shop as 803 4th Avenue until closure sometime between 1944 and 1949.

Winter in the Grocery Aisle


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Empress was one of a number of groceries in the city. The early 20th century marked a new era for the food consumer in America. The word grocery, in the sense of meaning a store where a grocer’s goods are sold, had only entered the English lexicon a century prior. But within those 100 years, dramatic changes occurred in food production and consumption. More and more consumers were exchanging the labor of growing the food they put on the table with the expense of buying it. The household grocery shopper of the day, likely female, needed to know how to efficiently buy the best and cheapest tomato, rather than how to grow that tomato. While still a territory, Alaska followed the national trend, though with some lag. Selfservice groceries, where customers (rather than a grocer) could select items themselves, began in the United States in 1916 with what would become the chain Piggly-Wiggly. The first self-service grocery opened in Anchorage later, in 1929, the same year as these receipts, just a few blocks away from Empress. That grocery, Lucky’s Self-Service, had the words “in God we trust, all others pay cash” painted on its windows. While we know little about Empress Grocery, sifting through the 130 or so receipts reveals possible stories about its customers. The scrawled handwriting of the grocer and the abbreviations of both items and names of buyers on the receipts requires some guesswork, but the tastes of specific patrons are captured on these slips of paper. C.J. Simms purchases bread and eggs on January 8th and then is back on the 16th for grapes, soup, and an indecipherable item. Simms is back again on the 17th for bread and sugar. The grapes, though the quantity is unknown, cost 35 cents, an equivalency of just over $5 today. Then a Mrs. Simms, perhaps the same Simms of January, is back on August 8th for a bottle of cream. I cannot help but wonder a bit about her frequent shopping. I myself love grocery shopping, and I will sometimes treat myself to wandering the aisles after a long, dark winter day. There in those aisles, I find mundane but satisfying pleasure in selecting something bright and nourishing. The volatility of winter shopping only adds to the pleasure of finding something special and ripe, like a bunch of round, tart grapes to bring home unexpectedly, or a dozen small oranges. Most shoppers only purchase relatively few items, but W.H. Greene of Healy has one of the longest receipts. He stocked up with

Mrs. Staser

C.J. Simms

C.J. Simms

J. Bagoy

W.H. Green

C.J. Simms

Mrs. B.E. Irwin

Mrs. Simms

Mrs. Mattschi

TOP LEFT TO BOTTOM RIGHT, ALL ANCHORAGE MUSEUM: B2015. B2015. B2015. B2015. B2015. B2015. B2015. B2015. B2015.

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$7.95 of items to bring home, nearly $120 in today’s dollars. He collected staples—ten pounds of potatoes, six lettuces, a small cabbage, a pack of pork jaws, three pounds of carrots and five of parsnips, a couple pairs of gloves. And he picked up some treats—24 doughnuts, a jar of salted almonds. Some research reveals that Greene (spelled Green on the receipt), was the railroad station agent in Healy, where he owned Mayflower claims and where some quantity of the mineral bornite was found. I wonder just who those 24 doughnuts might be for—fellow rail workers? As a worker on the Alaska Railroad recently completed in 1923, Greene must have had easier access to goods in Anchorage. Stocking up in town for a family or community before heading to a more rural setting is still familiar to many here in Alaska. Whenever I am in a big rush I always seem to find myself in line behind someone buying a thousand dollars’ worth of groceries and loading each item carefully into totes. Most Americans go to the grocery store 1.5 times a week, buying about ten items, and spending about $140 per week on food. Rural living demands bulk purchasing when residents are in town and have access and choice. While most of the patrons are anonymous, some of the receipts document the purchases of more prominent characters in Alaska’s history. There is a receipt from the Bagoys of the longstanding Anchorage flower shop for two dozen eggs, a pound of toddy (likely bulk coffee or tea), toilet paper, and Wheatena, a high fiber wheat cereal. Then, there is a set of receipts with the name “Staser.” These receipts may belong to Harry Staser, who first came to Alaska in 1909. He arrived as a determined prospector. Just 18 years old, he’d travelled all the way to the Klondike from Indiana. By 1929, the year of these receipts, he was Deputy US Marshall for Anchorage, a post he held from 1923-1933 after meat hunting for mining crews, serving a stint in the army, working as a mining engineer, and serving as a Republican representative in the territorial legislature. He had married Barbara Francetta De Pencier, who he had met in Fairbanks on his second trip to Alaska from 1913-1914. The couple moved to Anchorage in 1919, where Barbara made her name, at least in part, as territorial women’s singles and doubles tennis champion. Both Barbara and Harry had tragic ends. Barbara was in a car accident in 1935, which left her paralyzed her from the


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chest down until her death in 1952. Harry died of a heart attack in 1940 following a hard climb to a mine he had purchased. The receipts hint at life outside these recorded events for the Stasers. Mrs. Staser purchases cream, a dozen oranges, sugar, walnuts, apples, and canned peaches as well as fresh peaches on January 8th. Could this be a partial ingredient list for a cake or dessert Barbara would then concoct in her kitchen? Another receipt attributed to H. Staser from January 17th includes two cans of Hills (likely Hills Brother’s coffee), starch, bread, celery, lettuce, a jar of mints, and what appears to be two cans of asparagus tips.

I wonder just who those 24 doughnuts might be for.

And, what of those asparagus tips? Asparagus of any other variety than canned remains challenging to find in Anchorage today, virtually any time of year. Canned asparagus is notoriously mushy, and I might even say unpalatable, a far cry from its fresh counterpart. What dish featuring canned asparagus could have been featured on the Staser table? It seems to me that only in the dark depths of winter would one resort to canned asparagus, especially when fresh lettuce, even the much-maligned head of iceberg lettuce, might fill the vegetable portion of the plate. The collection of receipts also holds some from summer of the same year—August 2nd and 6th. In my Alaska summers, I have learned to grow and wild harvest some of my food. I grocery shop mostly at the farmers markets, buying huge vegetables that last many meals from local farmers. But on my occasional trip to the grocery store for cheese or oil or flour, I often find myself distracted in the produce aisle by heaps of

stone fruit that look particularly delicious. These tender fruits usually look bruised if they can be found at all other times of year, so I always manage to end up with bags full of fruits and no plan of how to use such a quantity. Looking at the receipts from Empress from August, I can only imagine shoppers nearly 100 years ago might have had a similar experience. These receipts tend to be shorter and heavy with produce: cucumber, corn on the cob, honeycomb, oranges (now 15 cents cheaper by the dozen than what was sold to Mrs. Staser seven months before). And, the receipt from Mrs. Lakshas for 12 plums. This is likely the receipt of the daughter of the John B. Bagoy and Marie Vlahusic Bagoy—Mary Bagoy Lakshas (1913-2014), who operated the Bagoy floral shop until its sale in 1972. Receipts are so often ephemeral objects. I rarely keep my grocery receipts, and I avoid having them printed whenever possible. So, perhaps my January trips to Natural Pantry for garbanzo bean flour, kombucha, and Greek yogurt won’t have the same longevity as these documents. There is good reason to move away from these slips of paper—researchers think receipts consume nearly 10 million trees and produce between 600 million and 1 billion pounds of waste in the Unites States alone each year. The receipts from Empress Grocery held in the Atwood Resource Center are fragile objects. Browned and brittle, they at first appear mundane—detritus from Anchorage’s history. But, with deeper inspection, the collection becomes an accumulation of poetic objects—each receipt a tiny, lyrical encounter with a person and their purchases. There is something intimate about holding these receipts and imagining what dishes might come from the ingredients listed. They tell familiar, personal stories of desire and longing, of hope and possibility found on the grocery aisle in Alaska. ■ editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in Edible Alaska Issue No. 14, Winter 2019, in S. Hollis Mickey’s Culinaria Obscura column, where she examines contemporary Alaska foodways by way of archival research at the Anchorage Museum.


THE EMPRESS GROCERY RECEIPTS in the Anchorage Museum Atwood Resource Center Collection invite musings about the lives and dining habits of Anchorage’s residents one hundred years ago. The word “receipt” comes from the Old North French receite, which actually refers to a list of ingredients for a potion, or a recipe. So, it is only appropriate that the Empress receipts provide inspiration for recipes. This recipe combines cupboard staples and canned goods with the exciting discovery of a bountiful shipment of specialty produce. HOW TO USE AN ABUNDANCE OF PLUMS

Plums can be grown in Alaska, but despite being perhaps some of the first fruits domesticated by humans, the genus Prunus remains elusive to find locally. But beautiful shipments of plums can be found in summer and sometimes surprise the grocery shopper even in the darkest days of winter on the shelves of Alaska groceries. When leaving the store with an overabundance of plums, a good recipe will give purpose to your purchase. Though be sure to eat at least one over the sink and let the juice run down your chin. ANCHORAGE MUSEUM, B2015.

Plum Frangipane Makes a 9-inch vegan frangipane tart. Frangipane gets its name from a 16th century 16th-century Italian nobleman, Marquis Muzio Frangipane, who invented a popular almond scented perfume. Traditionally a mixture of almond, egg, and sugar, this Frangipane tart gets better with a few days of rest, if you can wait that long. INGREDIENTS




2 cups flour (I used a gluten free blend of ½ cup quinoa flour, ½ cup ivory teff flour, ½ cup garbanzo bean flour, ½ cup coconut flour)

Preheat the oven to 325F.

2 TBS powdered sugar 6 TBS coconut oil Filling

1/3 cup olive oil ½ cup sugar + 1 TBS maple syrup ¼ cup + 3 TBS aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas) ¼ cup quinoa flour (or other gluten free flour) 1 TBS matcha powder (for color, optional) 1 cup pistachio meal (finely ground pistachios) 1 ½ cup almond flour At least 2 plums, cut into thin slices

Grease a 9” springform pan and line with parchment. Combine all ingredients for crust in one bowl and mix with a fork until it makes pea-sized crumbs. Press the crust into the pan as thinly as possible. Bake the crust for 15 minutes or until firm, but not browned. Filling

Cream together oil, sugar, and syrup using a hand mixer. Add flour and matcha if using and combine well. Add in aquafaba slowly, mixing well at a high speed after each addition. Fold in the nut meals, mixing into a thick batter. Arrange the plum slices on top. Bake for 50-60 minutes until browned at the edges. Let cool in the pan. Remove from the pan and let sit on the counter overnight.

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eep in southeast Alaska’s Chilkat Valley, three people bend over the blank back of a coastal chart—discussing, drawing, shading, remembering. They are Chilkat headman Kaalaxch’ (Kohklux) and his two wives. For three days, they pool their memories, experiences, and knowledge of the land that stretches over six hundred kilometers from Klukwan to Fort Selkirk. They are mapping the way inland for a newcomer, U.S. government surveyor George Davidson. Davidson and his

route. Ultimately, he will transcribe over 100 such names onto the map in multiple Indigenous languages including Tlingit, Tagish, Southern Tutchone, and Northern Tutchone. Kaalaxch’ and his wives not only know the land’s features, their names in all the languages spoken across the route, and how to find safe passage over the 1,000-metre mountain pass, they also own the trail as clan property. And although pencil and paper are new tools for them, the precision and accuracy of

CARTOGRAPHIC CONVERGENCES The southern Yukon’s first map By Corinna Cook


party are here to observe a solar eclipse calculated to reach totality at Klukwan, and Kaalaxch’ has guided them here into his homeland. Now, he and his wives draw each day of the month-long journey. They do so from memory. It is August 1869. To the south, the Takinsha Mountains and Chilkat Range rise from sea to sky. Below them lies Lynn Canal, a tempestuous but rich Pacific fjord. Up the valley, the trio draw pencils across the page and alongside them flow the frigid, milky waters of the Chilkat River. Hooligan, or candlefish, seasonally swell its current. To the north, the sheer rock faces and year-round snowfields of the Takshanuk Mountains stand hard against the sky. Looking back from the present day, former territorial archivist Linda Johnson imagines arriving as a newcomer into the Chilkat Tlingits’ homeland. “If you were George Davidson and others coming up the Chilkat [River Valley] for the first time, all you see is a wall of mountains,” she reflects. “The route goes through that barrier in a very precise way.” Across the page, Kaalaxch’ and his wives pencil everything from distinctive mountain profiles, riverways and lakes, and meeting places with inland people. Later, Davidson will listen attentively to his hosts and learn place names along the

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their hand-drawn map will stun local experts, GIS mappers, and geographers over a century later. “We have thousands of mental pictures gathered into one place,” says Tom Buzzell, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations citizen and First Nations Liaison Officer for Kluane National Park and Reserve. “It’s a download of what was going on in their minds that day.” The map Kaalaxch’ and his wives drew on the reverse of a coastal chart is now known as the “large Kohklux map.” There also exists a “small Kohklux map,” because Kaalaxch’ first sketched the route for Davidson on a notebook-sized sheet of paper, but needed more room to include sufficient detail. Today, the Kohklux maps reside in the Bancroft Library archives, in Berkeley, California. These extraordinary documents are the earliest known maps of southern Yukon. They are also the first known maps committed to paper by Indigenous people in the Alaska-Yukon region. A MOST IMPRESSIVE ARCHIVE

A few autumns back, 150 years after the maps’ drawing, Alaska Natives, First Nations Yukon people, U.S. and Canadian scholars, technical professionals, and artists came together in Haines Junction for a potlatch, and they gathered again the following weekend for a

Detail of the “large Kohklux map,” drawn in 1869 by Chilkat headman Kaalaxch’ (Kohklux) and his wives, with notes by U.S. government surveyor George Davidson. G4370 1852.K6, MAP COLLECTION, THE BANCROFT LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY

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conference in Whitehorse to commemorate the drawing of the maps, pondering the ongoing cross-cultural exchanges it represents. Most importantly, they came together to discover old connections and create new ones. Aptly bearing the name “Our Trails Bring Us Together,” the conference included cultural performances, panels and talks, slideshows, storytelling, an art installation, and ample attention to audience dialogue. On the first day of the conference, Klukwan, Alaska, community members Lani Hotch, Jack Hotch, and Marsha Hotch performed in full regalia, filling Whitehorse’s Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre with drumbeats, voice, and dance. Between songs, Lani Hotch, a Klukwan Elder, curator, and culturaleducation specialist at the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center, set the tone of the gathering with this statement: “We’re all here together for a few days, and we need to prepare our hearts for what’s to come.” Later in the conference, several First Nations leaders emphasized an important point about the maps’ purpose: “These maps weren’t for us,” said Steve Smith, Chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. “These maps are for those of you who would get lost.” Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Elder Ron Chambers raised a similar point in his presentation: “They were people who knew how to find their way up here,” said Chambers. “They didn’t need a map. Their language was their map. Davidson came and he needed a map. They were able to make one for him.” Reflecting on these sentiments after the conference, Johnson suggested we temper “our excitement and awe that we have for these maps with some of the reality that Tlingit ancestors had all that information in their heads and carried it around with them everywhere they went.” The physical maps are, of course, an extremely valuable resource for the Indigenous descendants of people who traded in the region, as well


as for today’s historians, ethnographers, and linguists. Yet, as powerful as the documents are, Smith’s and Chamber’s point is essential. “That is the more impressive archive,” Johnson reiterated. “What people carried in their minds.” TIES OF CULTURE, FAMILY, AND TRADE

Indigenous people in Alaska and Yukon have been active traders and longdistance travelers long before contact with Europeans. Coastal Tlingit people crossed the mountains into southwest Yukon carrying packs loaded with cedar, shells, and hooligan oil. The latter was such a central trade item that this coastal-inland route is often known as “the Grease Trail.” Hooligan oil was primarily eaten with other foods or used to preserve berries, herbs, roots, and salmon eggs. Southern and Northern Tutchone people met their Tlingit trading partners at wellknown sites to exchange the inland biome’s superior-quality furs, hides, copper, ochre, gopher robes, and skin clothing for the coastal resources. “Our ancestors were so fit,” says Lani Hotch. “Our ancestors walked everywhere.” The over 600 kilometer route Kaalaxch’ and his wives mapped from Klukwan to the confluence of the Yukon and Pelly rivers at Fort Selkirk represents a one-month journey—each way. To conduct the trading, each side designated leaders according to their protocols. Often, women had the final say in exchanges. After business was done, people celebrated with feasting, songs, dances, stories, and gifts. Marriages between Tlingit and Southern and Northern Tutchone people strengthened trade partnerships by creating familial closeness. Inter-family relationships softened the borders between groups and averted conflict, for such social and intercultural practices positioned traders not only as business partners, but as kin. Family ties established long ago continue today.

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TOP : First rendered in Davidson’s notebook, the “small Kohklux map,” proved too confining to provide sufficient detail. G4370 1852.K61, MAP COLLECTION, THE BANCROFT LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY




In contrast with such enduring continuities, dramatic changes of settler-colonial contact also mark the region’s history. European and American explorers sailed into the region in the mid-1700s. By the 1800s, Russia had claimed Alaska and started exploiting its fur resources, a large-scale economic project which entailed a degree of business cooperation—and violent conflict—with coastal Tlingits. Around the same time, British fur traders expanded through North America, ultimately tapping into the interior Yukon fur trade with the establishment of a Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort Selkirk. This did not sit well with the Chilkat Tlingit, who enjoyed a total trade monopoly on southern and central Yukon. The historically recorded details of Kaalaxch’s life begin here. In 1852, he and his father, Skeetl’aka, led a raid on the post at Fort Selkirk. No one was injured. Yet the attack drove the Hudson’s Bay Company out of the Yukon and re-established the Chilkat as the sole gatekeepers to trade in the interior. Kaalaxch’s life was spent contending with powerful and volatile outside forces, cultivating, refining, and fighting to conduct trade on his people’s terms, and navigating international power struggles in a

local context of tumultuous cross-cultural politics. With the 1867 sale of Alaska to the U.S., Kaalaxch’ suddenly had to create new relationships with outside powers, when the Russians left and the Americans arrived. “It was a pivotal moment,” says Johnson of the era in which Kaalaxch’ and Davidson met one another, traveled together, and formed their relationship. Significantly, the creation and gifting of the Kohklux map coincided with a period in which the British, Canadian, and American policies toward Indigenous people centered on aggressive assimilation tactics designed and executed with the explicit intent to exterminate Indigenous North America. And while the U.S. had recently abolished slavery (in 1865), it still denied Indigenous people virtually all citizenship rights. Kaalaxch’ thus welcomed Davidson into his Chilkat homeland at a delicate time, when the stakes of cross-cultural relationships were high and Indigenous-colonial negotiations occurred on fragile ground. Peace—at any time and between any people—is a precious thing. The Kohklux maps embody cooperation and exchange. That “the Grease Trail” allowed coastal people to convert food resources into Interior-sourced commodities, and

vice versa, a process important enough to spur all sorts of cross-cultural exchange, speaks to the power of foodways to cultivate identity and community. The maps are a symbol of longstanding relationships between diverse Indigenous groups of the Alaska-Yukon region and a reminder that there was once, deep in the Chilkat Valley, a profound moment of collaboration and respect that passed between an Indigenous leader and an individual agent of outside, colonial power. In keeping with North America’s legacy of Indigenous displacement, both the U.S. and Canada would soon perpetrate generations of trauma from which we are all, throughout Alaska and the Yukon, recovering today. When we contemplate the Kohklux maps and gather as the multi-ethnic and multicultural North of the present to do so, let us perceive, acknowledge, and honor the cooperative exchange—the peace, however complex—at the heart of these documents. ■ editor’s note: An earlier version of this piece was published in Canada by Yukon, North of Ordinary magazine.

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n a chilly winter morning near Ketchikan, the steely sky melds into frigid sea. Most recreational boats are buttoned up for the season, but one 17-foot Crestliner is on the move. The captain is bundled in warm layers. An extra kicker motor is onboard in case the main engine fails. Safety equipment includes an emergency radio, medical supplies, extra clothes, and food rations for days. Christy Ruby is going hunting, and she’s ready for anything. “On a flat calm day, you can hear a seagull poop on the water, a mile away. It echoes. I am alone in the ocean,” she says. Ruby is an Alaska Native hunter and award-winning fashion fur artist, specializing in seal and sea otter. Like her sense of humor, the custom apparel she designs and sews are all one-of-a kind. A Tlingit Eagle from the Kéet Gooshi Hít—the Killer Whale Dorsal Fin house—Ruby is tough, tall, and does it all. She hunts and processes


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animals that provide her with meat, fur, and a fulfilling livelihood. Each piece she makes is fueled by hard work, grit, cultural pride, innovation, and creativity. “My work takes me back to my ancestral roots,” she explains. “Fur meant life or death to my people, and its value has not changed for thousands of years.” Natural furs and skins provide superior protection and insulation from harsh Alaska winters. Her work reflects inspiration from iconic people and their stories, including her grandfather, a totem pole carver and Chilkat dancer from Klukwan. Ruby’s spectacular designs have won awards at fashion shows around the country, including the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Cherokee Art Market. Hunting fur-bearing marine mammals for a living is tough work that requires experience, proper equipment to be out on the ocean, and a heavy emphasis on safety. Winter hunting carries increased risks of stormy seas and gale-

Hunt, Eat, & Sew Alaska Native hunter-artist Christy Ruby stitches together tradition and innovation By Jennifer Nu

force winds. “If it’s going to blow, I won’t go,” she says. “The tides must be perfect, and the weather must be moderate.” Out on the water, Ruby boats over to her seal hunting spot, gets into position, and waits. One crack of a gun leads to many hours of work. She fetches the seal and brings it to shore to skin it, spreading the skin on the ground like a natural tarp as she works on the rest of the animal. Harbor seals are large, weighing well over 200 pounds and measuring four to six feet long. Rich black meat, slabs of pink blubber, hide, and knives go into buckets. Feeling accomplished and a bit chilled, she pulls anchor, and heads home.


Christy Ruby skins a seal.


The stunning “Taboo Kusax’an” capelet showcases brilliant turquoise, red, and black otter fur in “lovebird” formline designed to honor Marianne, a childhood friend of Christy Ruby’s grandmother who transformed an experience of love lost into creativity and laughter.



Being self-sufficient with food is important for Ruby. She grows a large vegetable garden and raises a batch of meat birds each summer. She also keeps a flock of egg chickens, cuddly pets trained to do tricks for treats. A former fly-fishing guide and lifelong deer hunter, she has the skills to keep her freezer stocked with a mix of wild and cultivated food from the land and sea. “I believe that the hard work that goes into hunting, raising, and processing your animals makes it taste so much better,” she says. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22







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“Someday, I’d like to train a worthy person to do the job that he did.”

Ruby learned respect for animals as soon as she started hunting. “I shot a squirrel when I was 15. And I had to eat that squirrel,” she said. “My grandmother told me, ‘You shoot it, you eat it.’ Well, our pine squirrels here are yucky. So, I didn’t shoot any more.” Fortunately, the harbor seals that Ruby hunts are a delicious, nutritious food that have long been harvested by the Indigenous peoples of Southeast Alaska. “They have the finest grained livers, which don’t even taste like fish,” says Ruby. “It’s smoother than goose paté. It’s ocean-flavored liver.” Her favorite part is the backstrap, fresh and roasted over a campfire. “The meat is rich in iron and Omega-3s.” Seal blubber is highly prized and traditionally rendered into oil. “If he’s been eating squid, I’ll render the blubber and use it as deicer for my body. I add a few teaspoons of seal oil to a bowl of oatmeal before I hunt because it’s bone-chilling cold out there.” While the air temperatures hover between 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit, the wind chill in an open boat can get down to minus 20 degrees. “Seal oil is the timetested remedy to keep a person warm in the cold,” says Ruby. “But if you eat too much, ya might get a little loosey goosey!” Seal blubber and oil is also a traditional and contemporary external heat source, which makes all the difference in freezing winter weather. “You can use the fat on a fire, doubling the output of BTUs,” she adds. When she first started hunting seal, Ruby shared the meat and blubber with Elders. Since many of the Elders she knew have passed away, pieces of seal are given to anyone who requests some.


Christy Ruby in her studio in Ketchikan.


A dress featuring a collar of 72 individual Alaska fur pieces. BELOW :

Seal meat and blubber are best enjoyed over a camp fire, according to Ruby.



For hats, mittens, and other apparel, sealskin serves as an outer shell. “Nature’s waterproof material—it breathes and repels water and is impenetrable against the elements,” Ruby explains. “Seal has natural oils in its skin that you can never get out. Its durability factor can last 40 years.” Ruby started hunting seals because she wanted to make sealskin mocassins for her mother. To purchase sealskin was expensive. “So, I decided to try hunting. It’s a lot of physical work, but it’s not difficult,” she says. “I went out and just did it.” Already a deer hunter, Ruby taught herself the rest. After returning home, Ruby removes all the blubber and meat from the seal hide during the laborious step called fleshing. The hides are preserved with salt before the critical stage of tanning, which is specialized cleaning and processing to ensure long-term preservaA L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


EAT. DRINK. READ. THINK. Through powerful, award-winning visual and written storytelling, Edible Alaska celebrates and documents our state’s food traditions, local food economies, and the people who shape how Alaskans live. • @EdibleAlaska


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Thank you for being a great neighbor and helping to make this such a wonderful community to be a part of.


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tion of the skin and fur. Unfortunately, tanning garment-quality sealskin in the United States is nearly impossible. While some tanneries do tan sealskin, Ruby has the highest standards for the skins of the animals she hunts. “I’m picky when it comes to my fur,” she says. “I’ve sent my hides to some tanneries, and they came back ruined.” Ruby entrusted her sealskins to only one tannery. “My favorite tanner, Ralph Ring at Frontier Tanning, was the best seal tanner in Alaska. He tanned for 65 years.” With affection she calls him “My favorite grumpy Mr. Rogers.” He trained Ruby in the commercial aspects of seal tanning. “He would not train anybody, he was so grumpy,” Ruby remembers. “It took me two years of begging him to train me and he finally did.” For three weeks, they tanned hides in tandem. “He tanned 30, and I tanned 30.” After she returned home, Ring called her on the phone. “He called me up to see what I was doing,” she says, remembering her disbelief. “He actually missed me. He never had anybody work with him in the tannery before.” Ruby misses him, too. In winter 2021, Ring passed away at the age of 92 and the loss is still hard to fathom. “Now where will I get my seals tanned?” she wonders. Determined to find a way forward, Ruby says that Ring’s knowledge did not die with him. “Someday, I’d like to train a worthy person to do the job that he did.” SEA OTTER AS THE INNER SHELL

After starting with seal, Ruby began hunting sea otter with the help and encouragement of several mentors. The densest fur in the world, sea otter’s insulative properties make it the perfect inner shell to complement a sealskin outer shell for Ruby’s fur apparel. Both seals and sea otters are protected by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which allows hunting only by Alaska Native hunters for the purpose of eating the meat and creating or selling authentic native handicrafts. Similar to sealskin, Ruby also prizes the relationship she has with her sea otter tannery. Since 2017, she has experimented with developing techniques for dyeing colored sea otter fur with Tubari, Ltd. in New Jersey. Together, they perfected the process, making it possible to showcase colored sea otter fur in her award-winning designs and custom products. INSPIRED DESIGN AND FUR SEWING

Before fur, Ruby was a graphic commercial artist for 30 years, drawing and sculpting intricate designs on collectible coins produced by a private mint in Alaska. A lifetime of artistry and creativity continues in the form of functional fur art apparel. “This is where Christy Ruby shines,” praises Curtis Brown, a long-time

The “September Seal” vest pieces together formline sealskin with colorful deerskin leather into a garment of mesmerizing perfection. PHOTOS COURTESY OF CR DESIGN

customer and geoduck diver in Craig. “She’s involved in the whole process, from shooting, fleshing, sending it in, and then making something absolutely beautiful.” As a sewer, Ruby is self-taught. All her patterns were made from scratch, and she also developed measuring charts to instruct customers how to measure their hands or heads so that she can ensure a perfect fit. It took seven years of trial and error to perfect her mitten pattern for five sizes. She also created her own pattern for fingerless mittens, inspired by a photo of a fingerless sheepskin mitten her mother sent. “Sheepskin is a single layer. To make fingerless mittens with seal and sea otter, you have two skins to deal with. Sewing the outside fur inside and the inside fur outside and matching it up is a real big pain in the patootie,” she jokes. The fingerless mitten pattern took ten years to create. In reflecting on her 12-year fur career, Ruby expresses deep gratitude for all she has overcome and the many people along the way who have contributed to her success. “Everything that has happened hasn’t been just because of me,” she insists. “It’s because of other people.” People in remote communities offered her a warm place to stay while she hunts sea otters off their beach. Mentors on Prince of Wales Island taught her how to improve her shooting skills and choose the right gun for hunting marine mammals. Fellow fashion designers modeled her apparel on stage. People allowed her to test patterns on their heads and hands. Special requests from customers gave her both the challenge and chance to level up her skills and create new things. “People change my life,” she affirms. “I’m in this business because of people who support me and my talent... and the crabbers who want me to go shoot more sea otters,” she jokes. Like the thousands of hand stitches that go into sewing a coat, the many experiences and people in her life have all fit together, making Ruby and her creations truly one-of-a-kind. ■ Jennifer Nu is a freelance writer and photographer in Alaska who explores stories about people and community well-being. When not writing, she can be found backcountry trekking, packrafting, and harvesting and processing traditional foods. A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


Mi Casa Es Tu Casa

How Mexican food fosters radical hospitality


ull belly, happy heart,” is an old Mexican saying. Although pithy, it is not always accurate. Not everything that reaches our bellies nourishes our hearts. If asked what flavors gladden our souls, we would all give different answers. But many of us would talk about the flavors from our childhood. Our early memories of smells and tastes are powerful because they connect us with that space we recognize as home and make us feel safe. When immigrants depart their countries of origin, they leave behind the possibility of connecting with those memories. Their new home will receive them with novel dishes, and those who cook will have different ingredients at hand. But they will hardly find the flavors from their early days. Immigrants to the United States may be surprised to find a wide variety of restaurants serving ethnic cuisines in their new country. But a restaurant needs more than familiar names on the menu to become a meaningful space. It should feel a little like home.


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By Gabriela Olmos

Today, Mexicans craving tacos in Anchorage may choose from more than 50 restaurants when looking for that homey place. The city has a robust Mexican community, and tacos are ubiquitous. But this has not always been the case. Mexicans first arrived in Alaska toward the end of the 19th century during the gold rush. Anthropologist Sara Komarnisky found an immigration document for a Mexican living in Alaska that dates to the 1910s. But not every job was golden. Mexicans worked in fishing and canning companies as early as 1905, and many served on military bases during World War II. The next wave of Hispanic immigrants would arrive shortly after the 1964 earthquake when Alaska needed workers with construction experience. In the years that followed, many of them sent for their families.

Certificates on a wall at Mexico in Alaska commemorate childrens’ first visits to the restaurant, and favorite foods. PHOTO BY ASH ADAMS

Introducing Mexican food to the Last Frontier involved significant challenges.

However, the most significant numbers of Mexican immigrants would arrive in the 1970s during the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Mostly, they found jobs in restaurants or retail stores. Although Mexican communities in Alaska were growing larger, few were fortunate enough to have the flavors of home at hand. But the opening of the Taco Loco tortilla shop was a step in the right direction. Originally from Durango, Mexico, Adán Galindo faced challenges typical of Alaska when he bought Taco Loco in 1976. Galindo told an Anchorage Daily News reporter in 1995 that the cost of getting corn dough to this corner of the world was so high that it was impossible to offer tortillas at the same price as shops in the Lower 48. But he was determined to bring Mexico’s flavors to his fellow Mexicans and found a way. The first restaurants to serve Mexican food in Anchorage were LaMex, La Cabaña, and Mexico in Alaska. Gallos, Taco King, Burrito King, Chepos, Xalos, and Las Margaritas came later. Introducing Mexican food to the Last Frontier involved A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


significant challenges: not only sourcing the ingredients but also educating Alaskans’ palates, fighting for menus to be written in Spanish, and training cadres of workers to understand the nuances of Mexican gastronomy. Talking about Mexican restaurants leads us to a couple of questions: What exactly is real Mexican food? Who decides if a dish is “authentically” Mexican or not, and on what basis? Authentic Mexican food is as varied as Mexico is vast. Mexico is 33 percent larger than Alaska. The 14th largest country in the world, it covers nearly 800,000 square miles of forests, jungles, mangroves, deserts, grasslands, and urban areas. Locally grown ingredients are not the same in a mountain forest as in a tropical jungle; culinary methods vary from region to region, too. Mexico’s geographic diversity has given rise to a great variety of traditional dishes that do not always resemble each other. “The foods of a country do not, by themselves, compose a cuisine. Cuisines, when seen from the perspective of people who care about the foods, are never the foods of a country, but the foods of a place,” wrote food anthropologist Sidney Mintz. Mexican immigrants in Anchorage would agree. Like everyone else, they have emotional connections with the smells and tastes of a specific regional gastronomy and not necessarily of what came to be considered Mexico’s national cuisine. How do Mexican restaurants in Anchorage address the emotional connections of diners to regional foods? To answer this question, let’s talk about dishes from different regions that became part of Anchorage’s Mexican dining experience. PEOPLE LOVE BURRITOS TO THE MOON AND BACK

The word “burrito” in Spanish means “little donkey.” The name is enigmatic to many, who see no connection between a burrito and the beast of burden. Journalist Antonio Moreno Montero collected three stories about the origin of the name. They all agree that, during the Mexican Revolution, cooks and street vendors transported burritos on donkeys throughout northern Mexico. Soldiers in the Revolution used to say, “here comes the burrito,” and their mouths watered, knowing they could soon knock down their hunger with a massive flavor bomb. Burritos are ubiquitous in the United States but are not common in all of Mexico. They are traditional staples in the northern state of Chihuahua, where eating wheat flour tortillas has been customary since the 17th century. The rest of the country leans toward corn tortillas and often disdain flour tortillas as impostors in the taco world, but that’s another story. Burritos became a popular dish in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States in the mid-20th century. Despite being well-liked by Hispanics on both sides of the border, they gained wider recognition due to American fast-food franchises, which usually were not handled by Latinos. As they spread to every corner of the United States, burritos transformed, adapting to local tastes. The creativity


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of Mexican chefs in Anchorage led to the creation of halibut burritos with tartar sauce and the party of traditional ingredients. But burritos have gone farther than Alaska. Astronaut Danny Rivas transformed them yet again when he prepared zerogravity burritos on the International Space Station in the 2000s. MOLE IS THE MEXICAN LOYALTY TEST

Mole (pronounced moh-lay) is one of Mexico’s most traditional dishes. It is so popular among Mexicans that the prominent writer Alfonso Reyes used to say that “refusing to eat mole [in Mexico] can almost be considered treason against the country.” Mole is a thick sauce made from nuts, peppers, spices, and sometimes chocolate. It can have more than a dozen ingredients— sometimes many more—and Mexicans usually enjoy it on top of turkey or chicken. Cooks may also serve it in a dish similar to enchiladas, often called enmoladas. “Mole is Mexico’s quintessential dish. Mexicans serve mole to celebrate baptisms, weddings, birthdays... you name it!” said María Elena Ball, the owner of Mexico in Alaska. Experts credit the invention of mole to Sister Andrea de la Asunción, a nun from the Santa Rosa convent, in the city of Puebla, in central Mexico. Legend has it that Sister Andrea had to cook an exceptional dish for a distinguished guest of the convent, perhaps the viceroy or a bishop. We’ll never know if she felt pressed for time or was inspired by the ingredients, but Sister Andrea mixed everything she found in her kitchen and created a sauce that people now enjoy—nay, worship—throughout central and southern Mexico. María Elena introduced mole to the state in the 1970s. When she opened her restaurant in 1972, she served dishes that were already familiar to Alaskans. But she wanted to treat diners to the smells and flavors of Mexican homes. The task was not easy: her mother shipped her peppers and other ingredients impossible to find in Alaska. María Elena remembers when she asked a guest if she knew of mole poblano (from the Puebla region). The woman firmly assured her that she knew what Mexican food was. But when served enmoladas, the customer took offense, insisting that it was not a Mexican dish. María Elena later discovered that the diner was from Texas and had confused Tex-Mex cuisine with Mexican, as often happens.

Maria Elena, owner of Mexico in Alaska, works at her desk in her office in the restaurant. PHOTO BY ASH ADAMS

But María Elena did not give up, and she still offers mole enchiladas to diners who want to discover the flavors of 17th-century Mexico.

Who decides if a dish is “authentically” Mexican or not, and on what basis?


Cochinita pibil (pronounced coach-ee-neat-ah peabeal) is a traditional dish from the southeastern Mexican state of Yucatan. Anchorage restaurants have recently added it to their menus. Commonly prepared with pork, cochinita pibil is meat marinated in a sauce of bitter orange juice, achiote paste (from annatto seeds), garlic, onion, and other spices. Once the meat has been infused with the flavor of this mix, cooks wrap it in banana leaves, and bake it in a pit oven with hot stones, called “pib” in Mayan. Cochinita pibil gets its name from this oven. Mexicans serve cochinita pibil with slices of purple onions and habanero chili bits pickled in the juice of a bitter orange. Cochinita pibil owes its existence to the hybridization of cultures that occurred in the Yucatan peninsula during the A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


Mexico in Alaska.

Ollin Tea & Cafe.

Mexico in Alaska.


“They see in this place more than a restaurant. They come when they feel bad, when they have a problem, and when they have something huge to celebrate.”


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Spanish colonization. Achiote has been a part of the region’s gastronomy since pre-Hispanic times. Mayans used to bake venison in pib ovens. After the arrival of the Conquistadors, pigs replaced the local game in pibil, giving the dish its syncretic flavor. Mayas usually place cochinita pibil on their altars for the Hanal Pixan, as the Day of the Dead is known on the Yucatan peninsula. They also include handmade corn tortillas in their ofrendas, hoping the ancestors would treat themselves to the most delicious tacos. Diners can enjoy cochinita pibil tacos in Anchorage as well. Ollin Tea & Cafe serves them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Alex Marqueda, Ollin’s owner and chef, said he introduced the dish because “Americans were not acquainted with it and Mexicans missed it.” Marqueda prepares cochinita pibil in the traditional way but has to forego the pib oven. “We cannot dig an oven on the restaurant floor,” he said. Marqueda steams the meat instead but still uses banana leaves and all the traditional spices to cook his pibil. The United States is a land of immigrants, where the flavors of regional cuisines mix in unexpected combinations. Xalos Burrito Express, for example, serves cochinita pibil burritos, which wrap flour tortillas from northern Mexico around Mayan ingredients. MEXICAN RICE GOT CAUGHT IN A MISUNDERSTANDING

Mexicans from the central states traditionally accompany their main dishes with beans and red rice, usually prepared with Morelos-type rice. It has a long grain, but not as long as that of the Basmati variety. Morelos rice is rich in starch and has a spongy texture that absorbs flavors easily. To prepare red rice, Mexicans generally fry it with onions. Then they pour in natural tomato sauce, water, and spices and cook it over low heat. Some people add carrot chunks and peas while the rice is simmering. Making a bowl of good red rice is a rite of passage in Mexican culture. The recipe sounds easy, but getting the fluffy texture of red rice is difficult, and by tradition, those who manage to do it for the first time are told they can now marry. Red rice is also traditional among Hispanics living in the southwestern U.S., where it is mistakenly called “Spanish rice.” The recipe book El cocinero español (The Spanish Cook), published in 1898, was responsible for the misunderstanding. In El cocinero español, the California-born author Encarnación Pinedo republished hundreds of recipes from the Nuevo cocinero mexicano (New Mexican Cook), a recipe book cherished by dozens of Mexican families. Despite presenting Mexican recipes, El cocinero español’s title claimed European origin. Experts have pointed out that Pinedo could have chosen this title to avoid racial discrimination, which was already a problem the Mexican American community faced in the 19th century. In Alaska, María Elena Ball has tried to straighten out this confusion. In her restaurant, red rice is called “Mexican rice.”


When the country is politically divided, Mexicans may say that the only division that matters is the one that separates those who prefer salsa roja (red) from those who lean toward salsa verde (green). Fortunately, there are many more salsa options in Anchorage’s Mexican restaurants, even more than in high-end restaurants in Mexico. The salsa bar is more of a taqueria tradition. Beyond the salsa bar, there are other significant differences between restaurants and taquerias. While restaurants open at noon, serve lunch and dinner, and provide a place to sit, taquerias tend to be more rustic, specializing in tacos, operating in the evenings, and closing after 2:00 a.m. In Mexico, young people may end a night out by enjoying tacos with salsa roja, verde, or any other. But whichever they choose, the salsa must be very hot because they believe spicy food cures a hangover. Eating Mexican in Anchorage is an intense experience beyond how spicy the salsas are. Here, restaurants serve dishes from different regions and culinary traditions that one rarely finds in one place in Mexico. Anchorage’s restaurateurs also serve dishes that are unique to Alaska. With regionally diverse menus, Anchorage restaurants remind Mexican patrons of their country and the flavors of their childhood. “We migrants miss our flavors, and more so being so far away, here in Alaska,” said Alex Marqueda. But Mexican restaurants do more than delight their guests with the dishes they ate back home. “My clients are to me like an extended family. They see in this place more than a restaurant. They come when they feel bad, when they have a problem, and when they have something huge to celebrate,” said María Elena Ball, who all but literally asks her customers to make themselves at home. “Mi casa es tu casa,” meaning my house is your house, is much more than a Mexican welcoming message. It is a sincere gesture of radical hospitality from hosts who will not— who cannot—rest until their guests feel comfortable, loved, and happy. And so, Anchorage’s Mexican restaurants strive to make their customers feel welcome while filling their bellies. But they do much more than that. They also provide a space where a community of diners, despite any differences, may nourish their hearts, feel safe, and probably smile. ■

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The Power of Connection Creating young, culturally strong leaders in Alaska By Lila Hobbs


or decades the Alaska Humanities Forum has strengthened communities by facilitating experiences that thoughtfully connect Alaskans. One hallmark of the Forum is its cross-cultural programming. In the early 2000s, the Forum created the Sister School Exchange in response to rising tensions of racial discrimination and marginalization of Alaska Natives. In January 2001, three teenagers from Eagle River launched a series of paintball attacks on Alaska Natives in Anchorage. The events were symptomatic of the state’s longstanding history of intolerance and institutional racism towards Alaska Natives. Seeing the need for crosscultural understanding, the Forum created the Sister School Exchange to bridge the gap between urban and rural students and educators by providing shared learning experiences grounded in mutual respect. The program gave participants opportunities to learn about other people and communities and reflect on identity, culture, values, and beliefs.


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Fifteen Alaska Native students from around the state spent July 14-18 in Bethel as a part of the Ilakucaraq (“Being Together” in Yup’ik) Project. They learned about Yup’ik language and culture, visited AVCP, and did tundra walks to learn about regional plants, food and medicine. They also learned from Hilda Oscar how to make different types of akutaq, pictured here.

The Ilakucaraq Project OVER THE COURSE OF THREE YEARS , the Ilakucaraq Projects’s

“There is power in

highly intentional four-tiered programming aims to serve 885 Alaska Native students and 300 Alaskan educators. Tier 1 focuses on statewide cohorts, connecting Alaska Native students across communities and cultures, and giving youth opportunities to build strong and sustained networks. In Tier 2, during each year of the grant, two groups of 30 students will participate in an intensive, two-day in-person seminar at Mt. Edgecumbe High School, followed by three virtual sessions. Through a series of virtual workshops featuring Alaska Native artists and culture-bearers, Tier 3 seeks to meaningfully impact Alaska Native youth’s self-understanding through the lens of cross-cultural connection. IP, partnering with GCI, will help provide access to reliable, high-quality internet and learning devices to critically improve the availability of remote instruction for Alaska Native students. Finally, in Tier 4, 300 educators in Alaska will participate in Indigenous Cultural Awareness professional development courses to increase their understanding of Alaska Native History and expand skills in crosscultural communications and culturally responsive teaching to best support Indigenous students’ academic achievement and well-being.

connecting to who Building upon the viAlice Hisamoto, IP Direcyou are and with sion and momentum tor at the Alaska Native your community. of the Sister School ExHeritage Center, describes change, the Alaska Native how Indigenous models This is healing Heritage Center began a for learning are inherently partnership with the Foholistic, “An Indigenous work, and there rum and Mt. Edgecumbe approach does not focus High School through a on gaps or deficits. IP is is a generation three-year grant awarded designed based on Indigby the U.S. Department of enous ways of learning. All hungry for it.” Education’s Alaska Native the youth program curE M I LY E D E N S H AW Education Program. This riculum is reviewed and synergy birthed Ilakuapproved by Elders and caraq Project (IP), which culture bearers.” means “being together,” IP can be a catalyst for in Yugtun. Its name came deeper cultural exchanges from Mark John, the forand empowerment. Presimer Executive Director of the Calista Elders dent and CEO of the Alaska Native Heritage Council, who wanted to underscore the vital Center Emily Edenshaw reflected on the significance of connection to wellbeing. By goal of grounding IP in culture, “Our culstrengthening connections between Alaska ture is our strongest form of medicine. It is Native youth across the state and educating our identity and who we are. It is our way teachers on the diversity of Alaska’s mul- of connecting.” There is hope that, after IP’s titude of cultures, IP has the potential to concluding year, it will serve as an exemplar have profound outcomes. Not only can IP for other states. Edenshaw’s impetus for this help increase the number of Alaska Native imperative work is personal. “I want people students graduating from high school and to put down the shame of not feeling Napursuing post-secondary education, but it tive enough. There is power in connecting also can establish a pathway for participants to who you are and with your community. to find their voices, becoming contributors This is healing work, and there is a generathat strengthen themselves and their com- tion hungry for it.” munities in the process. IP lays the foundation for fostering future culture bearers and language warriors. IP’s approach is an Indigenous, Modeling effective leadership skills and givstrengths-based model that harnesses ing Alaska Native youth many opportunities collective energy to meet unmet needs. to succeed throughout their development is Gregory Stewart, Grant Writer and Admin a shared responsibility. The onus should not Manager at the Alaska Native Heritage Cen- fall solely on Alaska Native youth. Our futer, explains the distinctiveness of the pro- ture relies on Alaska Native youth learning gram’s design. “While there are many other the living artifacts of their cultures: fishing, existing programs around the country that beading, dancing, and drumming—walking work with both rural and urban youth and in the footsteps of their ancestors. ■ educators, rarely is there one where all the components are linked together in a logic Lila Hobbs lives and works on Dena’ina Ełnena. model approach to have an overarching ef- She uses storytelling as a medium to build fect in the educational sphere for Alaska Na- community, inspire activism, and enhance tive students... its broadness in combination stewardship of a wilder world. Learn more at with good strategies makes it so unique.” A L A S K A H U M A N ITI E S F O R U M S U M M E R 20 22


Proud Supporter of the Alaska Humanities Forum







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Gary Holthaus spoke, read from his numerous works, and engaged a loving audience in dialog during a two-night retrospective celebration (poetry one evening, prose the next) co-organized by Alaska Quarterly Review (AQR), 49 Writers, and the Alaska Humanities Forum in Anchorage, January 2017. His official connection to AQR began in 1985 when he, along with Ronald Spatz, Nora Dauenhauer, and Richard Dauenhauer, co-edited the first edition of AQR’s Alaska Native Writers, Storytellers & Orators. PHOTO BY JEREMY PATAKY

Gary Holthaus, 1932-2022 “There have been cultures that persisted for thousands of years without literacy, but there has never been a sustained culture without healthy stories.”—gary holthaus Gary Holthaus, who in 1972 became the founding director of the Alaska Humanities Forum, passed away July 5, 2022 in his native Midwest at the age of 89. An avowed humanist, Holthaus was a poet, essayist, minister, activist, administrator, volunteer, educator, and outdoorsman. He came to Alaska in 1964 to teach school in Naknek. In his following decades in Alaska, he directed the state’s bilingual education program; advocated for Alaska Native education; traveled, spoke, and read widely; published multiple books and anthologies; and served as a sensitive and respected Western interpreter of Indigenous ways of life. Speaking about Holthaus’s booklength poem, Circling Back, a poetic narrative history of the American West, poet

and essayist Gary Snyder said, “If I had to recommend one book on the West, this would be it.” Not least of Holthaus’s efforts was nurturing the Forum from its founding until 1991. Writing on the Forum’s tenth anniversary, he noted humbly, “what we offer is a staff of two who work mainly by brute strength and awkwardness.” While the Forum has grown, its commitment to using the humanities as a means to promote thriving Alaska communities is his direct legacy. “The humanities can’t stop drugs and alcohol,” he wrote in the first issue of the Forum’s newsletter in 1989. “Neither will they work any magic that will increase our fortunes. The humanities cannot directly prevent oil spills. But they can help

us sort out our values and examine our notions of the public good, and they can provide us with alternatives to our own worldview so that we learn to take better care of one another and the world that sustains us. They can help us think about the nature and purpose of government during this time when many are disappointed in our political institutions; and they can help us think about the nature of our communities, what it is that makes them healthy and nourishing. “Our stories help explain us to ourselves and to one another; they tell us who we are and what we might become; they are our consolation and our challenge, a way of saying, ‘We know… we know, it’s all right; we can make something of this.’” ■

421 West First Avenue, Suite 200 Anchorage, AK 99501 (907) 272-5341


Forum launches new website


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In 1997, the Alaska Humanities Forum launched our first website. Since then, we’ve had over a dozen versions across several platforms. Now, with the launch of a new site, the Forum advances our vision of a diverse and equitable Alaska where people are engaged, informed, and connected. Working with local developers, we built the new site from the ground up to enhance user experience and ensure the Forum’s programs are accessible to everyone. New features include improved navigation tools; reorganized pages that help visitors find what they’re looking for and discover of other areas of our work; an easyto-use donation button that makes it simple to support our mission; and improved language accessibility with Google Translate.

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