Learning from experience.  

I wanted the experience of trapping Arctic Ground Squirrels AKA Parky Squirrels and in Central Yup’ik, “Qanganat”

My family and I met up with Harry and Sharon Alexie and their son and daughter on the Denali Highway. There, I also met Sargent Guy and his three year old son George. I bought 58 squirrels from Sargent to began my parka project.  I had a most awesome learning experience from them in just short two hours or so – because they had to catch their flight back to Bethel the very next day, they gave me a crash course of trapping squirrels! They also lent me their traps – at least a dozen traps, with my lack of experience I only bought 6. 

Trapping starts early part of August until hibernation or spring when they are coming out of hibernation.  

My heart was bounding and my hands were shaking – not like any class I have taken – this was learning from observation and actually almost snapping my fingers into the trap!

Their children gave  me courage from watching them skinning the squirrels – I stood there proud in my heart how fantastic work their doing!  Little George made me proud too for his patience as he waited and played amongst the busy hands preparing the squirrels for parties and celebrations.  Kwethluk, my mothers childhood home is known to have big feasts and celebrations and where squirrels are a delicacy.  As a young child I believe I may have tried but I really don’t know – I must have smelled it in the air while it was cooking and passed up on the opportunity.  I will have that taste when we have a celebration with family and friends!!!  I still need to go trapping for the third time before they fully hibernate so I have enough to share.  At this time we caught a total of three.  

My dog made sure we were safe

I have never worked so hard for little critters other than salmon!!  You know what – just like fish you get a connection with squirrels – it was our ancestors way of life for food and warmth.  I am looking forward to more trapping with my family.  My girls brings me joy and encouragement as they are learning with me – It’s neat and challenging!  We also saw caribou, flowers and black berries on this trip.  Thanks to my husband Matt Wharton who does not give up on me 🌸.

I might be dragging few of my friends to come with me before the squirrels run off to sleep – be ready friends!  

Special thanks to Rasmuson Foundation!

Most importantly, thanks to my Lord Jesus who blesses me with these experiences – I prayed and he answered.  He knows my ❤️!

Author: Nasek'taq

Merna Wharton “Nasek’taq” is Yup'ik from Akiacuaq (Akiachak) lives in Anchorage Alaska. Merna is an Alaska Native artist, poet, traditional and contemporary seamstress, carver, gatherer of greens and berries, and loves the outdoors of Alaska! Merna enjoys finding art in natural elements and shares her experiences through her website, nasektaq.com. Merna crafts to preserve her culture and art and shares her worldview from a remote village Yup’ik girl’s perspective with a glimpse of life in Alaska in her writing and poems. More information about her art can be found at https://www.rasmuson.org/49writers/artist-profile/merna-wharton/.

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