Kiagmi nunaqutaartukut alagnanek. - In the summer we go berry picking for salmonberries.
Collecting from the land remains a popular activity in Alutiiq communities. Spring greens, berries, shellfish, medicinal herbs, and driftwood are among the resources that Alutiiqs gather from the mountains, meadows, and shores of Kodiak Island. The Alutiiq language reflects the importance of this activity. In Alutiiq, the suffix –sur means “to get that thing.” Add this suffix to a noun like alagnaq, or salmonberry, and you get alagnarsur-, a root word that means “to get salmonberries.” This same suffix can be applied to almost anything you wish to gather.
However, the word for berry picking, nunaquq, is different. This verb appears to be related to the Alutiiq word for land, nuna, andmay once have referred to collecting more generally: to go outon the land. Today, speakers use nunaquq to refer only to berrypicking, although it can be applied to gathering berries of any kind.
Kodiak Alutiiqs harvest wild berries more than any other plant,collecting seventeen different varieties from mid summer to earlyfall. The most popular are plump watery salmonberries; shiny,tart crowberries; tiny, sweet alpine blueberries; and bright redlowbush cranberries. Some people freeze their berries for winteror preserve them in jams and jellies. Others eat their berries fresh.Some Alutiiqs boil berries with sugar to make a hot drink or mixin some cornstarch and allow the mixture to cool into a pudding.One popular dish is ciiitaq, a combination of crushed berries and milk. The word ciitaq comes from the Alutiiq verb ciilluku, meaning to smash it flat, and translates as “something mashed.”
Photo: Boys picking berries near Karluk, Clyda Christensen Collection.