Monday, June 23, 2008

Ahna's Summer Camp

This weekend we took a ride to Ahna Lena's camp. Lena is Uyaana's "Ahna", the Kotzebue Coastal Inupiaq word for grandmother. That is the phoenetic spelling for the word. All the Inupiaq words you see here will be phoenetic. Even though Inupiaq was traditionally an oral language with no written words or symbols a written language has been developend for it. Not being fluent in written Inupiaq I make up phoenetic spellings which also makes it easier for people not familiar with eskimo to read them... but I digress.

As I was saying we went to visit Ahna at her summer camp. She was there working on oogruk, or bearded seal. June is traditionally the month that we hunt bearded seal. I say "we" because I have lived here so long and participate in so many traditional subsistence activities that it does not feel like "they", it feels like "we".

This is Ahna's innisuk where she hangs strips of Oogruk meat to dry. This camp is also fish camp where she hangs salmon and other fish

Here is a close up of the oogruk meat hanging. After it is mostly dry, yet still a bit soft on the inside she will cut it into smaller pieces and store it in seal oil that has been rendered from the blubber of the oogruk.

Of course when we got there she offered us some lunch. She had cooked up some goodies and we were starving.

The meat is boiled oogruk. If you made me pick a descriptor for how it tastes I would say the closest thing would be fishy beef. Sounds terrible but it is delicious. The fatty looking stuff in chunks is just that, chunks of boiled blubber. The gray thing that looked like rubber hoses are ingaloqs. These are everybody's favorite. We all fight over the last piece. It's boiled seal intestines. Yummy with yellow mustard.

Ingaloqs are Uyaana's favorite.

Kaija the Vanquisher of Rodents had a wonderful time vanquishing.

Here the object of her obsession is hanging from her mouth.

Uyaana decided that he needed to take a closer look. This was one of many.

This is the view from the hill behind summer camp overlooking Sisualik Lagoon and Kotzebue Sound.

12 miles across Kotzebue Sound from summer camp is Kotzebue. You can see the long range radar "golf ball" in the distance.


Becky said...

Now THAT is a slice of life in Alaska that most folks never get to see! That was so cool. And thanks for explaining what the different foods were, because I never would have guessed.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

It's been 35+ years since I've had seal meat. I remember it being very tasty.

I like the boiled intestine! I'm gonna link through to this post on my food blog :) If you don't mind, of course.

Anonymous said...

OK, well, I've always felt very proud of the fact that wherever I go, I ALWAYS seek out and try the "native" food. I've had alligator, ostrich, moose, elk, caribou, etc. etc., but I looked at that picture, and that of Uyaana mowing down on the seal intestines, and my stomach flipped over. I. Don't. Know. About. That. (Can you wash it down with a hot cup of coffee???)
The fish camp pictures and information, though? Totally cool. Thanks for posting all that.


Gwyn said...

Greetings from Juneau, Alaska!
Thank you for doing such a wonderful job of sharing your part of Alaska with us. Keep up the great work. I look forward to see more.

BNS said...

Outstanding presentation. Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of that with all of us. Fascinating.


Trudie said...

While living in Inuvik, NWT during the 80's and early 90's, I had the opportunity to visit friends in the camps and eating country foods. Boiled intestines was not one of the things I tried, but it seems to me it can't be any "worse" than some of the stuff we are exposed to in Western cuisine. I'm sure it's a lot healthier food than everything laced with artificial flavors and colors we eat daily.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

What a great montage and explanation. I can't even imagine how peaceful it must have felt to sit up on that ridge and look out at the water. Well, as peaceful as it can be with a little one and a dog jumping around. LOL