Skagway Walks for the Cure

Photos by Chelsea Bennett

More than $16,000 was raised on a beautiful day during the annual Fran Delisle Cancer Awareness Walk-a-thon on June 9. Nearly 100 human and canine walkers (and a few in jog strollers) started off from the Chilkoot Trail Outpost in Dyea for the seven-mile trek to Skagway, finishing at the Elks lodge for a BBQ. The funds are used annually to pay for cancer screening for local residents and for cancer research. Many local businesses also contributed to a silent auction for the benefit.

Beach greens and basket weaves

If you’re looking for an inexpensive meal of fresh ingredients, local medicines or basket-weaving materials, the Skagway area is a good place to start, as demonstrated by Skagway Traditional Council last week.
The STC hosted its sixth annual Traditional Plants Use and Native Knowledge Forum June 8 and 9. Locals and visitors alike were treated to lectures and presentations about traditional herbs and medicine, edible marine plant identification and basketry.
Tagish Tlingit elder Ida Calmegane, a retired nurse who has guided a tour through Dyea and its native plants each year, was joined June 8 by Libby Watanabe, Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium chief dietician, and Lorraine Kasko, basketry artist, in addressing a crowd of about 25.
With each fact Calmegane related to the audience about the uses of native herbs, she had a story demonstrating the efficacy of each.
“They really work really good,” she said of the herbs she discussed.
Calmegane was followed by Watanabe, of Sitka, who walked the audience through the process of identifying, harvesting, processing and serving local seaweeds, which she reported to have many health benefits. Watanabe has attended the forum for three years, now.
“It’s like a survival food,” Watanabe said of black seaweed.

Lorraine Kasko explains basket weaving to the audience. -CD

New to the forum this year, Kasko, of Haines, gave a presentation on the “very delicate art” of basketry. She has been studying for 15 years, and is familiar with each aspect of the undertaking, from its history to gathering roots for the traditional art and the properties of various materials. She talked the crowd through the intricate process of weaving a watertight spruce root hat in the same manner used hundreds of years ago.
“Since it’s related to plants also, I decided it would be good to switch it up,” said Amber Matthews, STC president. “I thought it would be interesting to add Lorraine because people really like the baskets and it’s a nice visual for everyone to see the process.”
The next morning, most of the crowd returned for a ride to Nahku (Long) Bay, where Calmegane and others in attendance discuss local flora. Calmegane rambled off numerous plant names and uses before even leaving the side of the road. Many attendees provided input, and the collaboration on identification, recipes and medicinal uses yielded a morning rich in local plant knowledge.
“The turnout was a lot better than last year,” Matthews said. “I got a lot of good feedback.”