Summer 2020, of no fish camp

I remember the beginning of summer as a child with no knowledge of any other world, and the excitement of going to fish camp with just my parents and siblings. Yesterday is a memory, today is now and tomorrow is a new day! My sisters and friends have helped in my journeys in gathering food and being my listening ears when I have something to say-Quyana! They are also my food critics and they make camping food tasty with laughter. I’ve put off publishing this piece since last summer because it seemed impossible to make it to today at that time – it was too hard to go to my home and fish camp to prevent illness to my family or anyone! Fish camp is my rejuvenation place every summer. I sure hope I will cut Kuskokwim salmon and help with smoking them in the smoke house!

Last summer, I found a place guided by friends a place with the wind and sun, an emotional place we all feel with family, it was my first ocean salmon drying place. While the salmon dried there was without the crowd of children running around. I was missing the company and smell of home cooked food. I missed the noise of children enjoying sunshine and loud swimming in the river and the conversations with family with the company of delicious and delicate food. I missed the daily hot saunas with my sisters and mom. This temporary scene helped me to overcome the loneliness, even the sea gulls new my feelings when I told them, “shut up!” several ten times, and ten more times. They finally left me and drying salmon alone.

When I typed these words in the dark and the only light comes from your computer monitor – memories rolling in – the dark was unknown and the light was what was in front of me – the monitor that shines light to my past. The fish camp where brothers and nephews bring fish to and the women cut to perfection for our winter bellies! While I type these words, I see my hands what once cut at least hundreds of salmon for winter food…no slime and cold water to refresh from the heat of the sun in June and July – before the flies lay their eggs of nuisance! All we need is dried fish smoked to fulfill our duty in this modern world – everyone desire good quality food! Yupiit know quality when salmon is cut and smoked to preservation – our goal is to survive! I am merely telling what is known, remembered and learned! Salmons are our essentials in Alaska!

Tuingunrituq!

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/.