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Winter pantry-Alaska.

In late spring, early summer or the very early fall, Eskimo families pack their camping gear and head toward their historic family camps.

In later summer or very early fall they go to the Berry Camp. In the spring or summer they all head towards Fish Camp. There never seems to be an exact date each year--someone would know when was the best time to go and then they would go. There was never an exact amount of time they would stay either. It was all determined by how many berries or fish they thought they needed for the rest of the year. The women and children would forage all over their specific locals gathering black, blue, and salmon berries. The more enterprising of the villagers would pick and pack more than they needed and upon return try to sell them to the school teachers. I think the going price was $20 a quart. I liked the black berries, the blue berries were OK, and the salmon berries were just a little too gritty tasting. The berries they did not sell to the teachers were frozen and brought out now and then through out the year for special treats and occasions.

The fish, usually Salmon from the streams inundating the tundra, but caught via nets by the men and cleaned on an assembly line basis by the women and not of age children, were hung out to dry on fish racks. Fish racks are very interesting structures but I lack the writing skill to describe them very well. The best description I can come up with is that they resembled those small wooden things that people use to dry small articles of washables on in the house. However most of the fish racks were huge, some over six feet tall, stretching 20 to 30 feet in a serpentine manner, and had several layers of rods connecting the sections. These were permanent structures and left out on the Tundra year after year with no one bothering them nor using one that was not theirs.

As you might imagine living near the water, be it an ocean or river, fish is a staple, a big stable. The people who I lived around really fished all year round one way or another and they would dry their fish either on fish racks that they had near their dwellings or on clothes lines. Some times the laundry would share the same line.

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Title Annotation:Yukon Circle
Author:McAnally, Conley Stone
Publication:Whispering Wind
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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