Dawn Davis: Harvesting Sourdock for Subsistence


Harvesting Sourdock for Subsistence in Ninivak, Alaska

Photo by Dawn Davis: Harvesting Sourdock for Subsistence in Ninivak, Alaska

“So we grabbed what we needed and went out the door,” Dawn says. “It was typical fall day on Nunivak. Breezy and overcast. You could hear the waves crashing onto the land. It felt like it wanted to rain, but it was just misty out. Where we picked sourdock, it was just outside of Mekoryuk right by the ocean.”

Sourdock is a beloved plant to the Native people of Nunivak, known as ciiwassar in the Cup’ig language. It goes into akutag—Eskimo ice cream—a dish Dawn prepares with Crisco, sugar, water and sourdock.

Boiled sourdock is also a key ingredient in uqniraq , a Nunivak Cup’ig delicacy that also includes fish eggs, walrus and walrus flippers.

“Many outsiders can’t eat it because the taste and smell is so potent, but it’s yummy for my tummy,” Dawn says. “But there are some brave souls that try it. When they do, their reaction makes me giggle and makes me happy they want to try our native food.”

Out on the tundra near the Bering Sea, Dawn and her cousin picked the plants from the earth.

They laughed and told inside jokes, happy to be outdoors gathering food for the family. In one moment of joy, the cousin snapped Dawn’s image as she hugged the harvest to her chest.

“What I want other people to know about the picture is to enjoy the natural foods the earth provides us. I also want others to know that we do not waste anything we gather. Whether it’s vegetables and berries from the land, fish or mammals from the sea. We take just what we need and give thanks to the Creator.”

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