Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Akutaq Go Down...

In the past 3 days I have eaten more Native food than ever before.  Here in the village people throw parties for various reasons.  Birthdays, death anniversaries, and first kills.  During the summer and fall months they have the women come early and go to "Throwing Parties".  I think I've explained about these before, but if I haven't they are pretty self explanitory.  The person hosting the party buys tons and tons of items to give away, climbs to a high point on their property, and begins throwing these objects to the people on the ground.  Washcloths, socks, notebooks, bookbags, tupperware, candy... just about anything can be thrown.  After that comes the feast.

It's still winter here in Alaska, with some really terrible days of negative windchill.  But, people still have these parties.  Now, the village is invited to the house, given platefuls of food, and leave with presents.  You go into the person's house, find a place to sit, and wait for the family to come around and serve you.  Sometimes you end up in a persons room, other times in the living room, but hardly ever do you end up at a table.  That is reserved for the elders.  They get their food, drinks, and dessert first.  Then come the men, then the women, and children.
The feasts here usually consist of meat soups (moose, beaver, salmon, etc.), the occasional vegetables, and akutaq (crisco, sugar, and berries).  As you are eating the family members will come around with presents such as washcloths, shampoo, and tupperware.  The kids will usually get something to wash with, socks and gloves, and sometimes a toy and candy.  The end of the meal you are invited to sit at the table with the family. There is usally coffee and tea offered with cake, fried bread, or the occasional salted fish (still attached to the skin, bones, and eyes).

Personally I go because I know it's the best way for me to be involved with the community in a positive way, other than doing school activities.  Some meals are easier to swallow than others.  But, no matter how much sugar you add, akutaq is still hard to swallow.  I think it's the thought that I'm eating lard with sugar and berries.

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