Natural Supportive Care for A Weavers’ Wrists & Hands

“Skookum” muscle salve by Harlena Warford, Hoonah, Alaska  —  Visit her website at:

Last Summer, a fellow weaver introduced me to her Auntie Harlena’s “Skookum” salve that she used for her slight case of carpel tunnel.  Of course, I was very much interested since I had developed carpel tunnel 20 years ago in my right arm, to which I have had no trouble until just a few weeks before being introduced to this miracle worker!   Within 5 minutes after I applied this stuff, suddenly my fingers began to twitch uncontrollably lasting about 2 or 3 minutes.  Then the sharp pains in my wrist and top of my hand was gone!

“Skookum” is made of natural ingredients including:  Skunk cabbage, Shea butter, Palm Kernel and Olive oil

Let’s face it, weavers use their hands all the time, and sometimes depending on our projects and time constraints, we may be using repetitive motion for many hours in a given day, in a given week, in a given year.  Certain muscles need “food”, they need care especially if we work them day and night.  My hands and wrists are consistently in use; if I want to continue creating all that I create, I must respect and honor them by taking care of them.  The “Skookum” and the “Incredibrace” are the two unabrasive, no-side-effect tools that I use.  I whole-heartedly and gladly share them here with you.

The “Incredibrace” – an innovative invention – well worth the price of $21.00! — check out the website at:

Buy the Incredibrace via my Amazon Associate by clicking here.

My health nut friends Jan and Gregg, highly recommended this easy device for wrist support; I took their word for it, and I am sold!  I have used this wrist brace off and on for the past six months.  I have turned my son onto these braces; he is a film-maker/photographer who carries heavy equipment all the time and my son-in-law is a sculptor working into the wee hours of the morning.

The Incredibrace is great for injuries; it reduces inflammation and increases blood flow and circulation.  It increases range of motion, relieves carpel tunnel, Raymaud Syndrome, Arthritis pain, wrist sprains, numbness and cold hands and fingers.  Incredibrace fabric releases negative ions – Negative ions vibrate cellular walls; vibrations increase circulation within 20 minutes.  No uncomfortable compression needed!

Just wear as needed; it can be worn 24/7

For maximum health benefits and pain-free weaving, when needed (which is not that often anymore), I use both the “Skookum” and the “Incredibrace”.

$21.00 for the Incredibrace and $20.00 for 2 oz jar of “Skookum” – that’s less than a doctor’s visit.  Give it a try.  You have nothing to lose except your pain.

The Liver and Gallbladder Flush: Keeping our Filters Clean

“The Amazing Liver & Gallbladder Flush” by Andreas Moritz – My library consists of topics on art (mostly Northwest Coast art of course), philosophy, gardening and alternative health – Order this book online via my Amazon Associate account by clicking here.

I include a “Health and Wellness” section on my blog for the very reason that when we keep our bodies healthy, we can continue to create art, teach classes and “run with the wolves!”  I am a seeker and practitioner of what is called  “alternative health” – I tend to choose the less invasive, non-violent, cost-effective methods of healing.   I will seek doctor’s diagnosis but generally do not take their remedies.  I am the steward of my own body and its health.  Again, I share with you another technique of “weaving a healthy fabric” to assist our well-being!

A few years ago I learned that if I want my car to live a long life, change the oil and filter every 3000 miles.  Doggone if this ain’t true!  This year I learned that if I want to live a long, healthy life, clean the “filters” of my body once or twice a year.  These filters  are mainly the liver and gallbladder, and of course, the kidneys too.  Last night/this morning I completed my liver/gallbladder flush; it is a good way to begin my Thanksgiving weekend.  The cleanse was painless; I feel clean with better clarity.  I have been experiencing other symptoms I won’t name here, and I will keep tabs the next few days and weeks to see if those symptoms vanish.   I feel no pain in my liver or gallbladder.  I am thankful for the information from medical practicioner and writer of the book Andreas Moritz, and I am thankful for being brave enough to follow through with the cleanse.  I am thankful my body co-ooperated and I actually survived this cleanse!  hahaha!  I feel happy!  Truly a Happy Thanksgiving!

For the past four years my liver and gallbladder have been giving me pain.  A Juneau doctor said I could get rid of the pain in one afternoon’s operation via laser.  I told him that I wanted to keep my gall bladder, thank you very much, to which he was surprised (what?  A patient wouldn’t take his remedial advice!?)  I changed my already-pretty-clean diet a bit more to avoid the pain, though now and then if I drank or ate the wrong foods, I would feel pain.   Then a month ago,  I came across this book; it’s changed the way I think about my internal organs.   Really, for the first time in my life,  I AM ACTUALLY ACKNOWLEDGING THEIR FUNCTION AND EXISTENCE!!!  I am actually giving them REAL POSITIVE ATTENTION!!!  I have come to recognize and appreciate these things that allow me to LIVE!  HELLO!?

I am going to order at least 10 copies of this book for Christmas gifts to those closest to me:  “The Amazing Liver and Gallbladder Flush:  A Powerful Do-It-Yourself Tool to Optimize Your Health and Wellbeing”   (My father’s birthday is today; he would have been 84.  His gall bladder was removed when he was 50.  I wonder how much longer he would have lived if he had known about this cleanse years ago, because he sure didn’t want to go when he went!)

In this revised edition of his best-selling book, the Amazing Liver Cleanse, Adreas Moritz addresses the most common but rarely recognized cause of illness – gallstones congesting the liver.  Twenty million Americans suffer from attacks of gallstones every year.  In many cases, treatment merely consists of removing the gallbladder, at the cost of $5 billion a year.  But this purely symptom-oriented approach does not eliminate the cause of the illness, ad in many cases, sets the stage for even more serious conditions.  Most adults living in the industrialized world, and especially those suffering a chronic illness such as heart disease, arthritis, MS, cancer or diabetes, have hundreds if not thousands of gallstones (mainly clumps of hardened bile) blocking the bil ducts of their liver.

This book provides a thorough understanding of what causes gallstones in the liver and gallbladder and why these stones can be held responsible for the most common diseases so prevalent in the world today.  It provides the read with the knowledge needed to recognize the stones and gives the necessary, do-it-yourself instructions to painlessly remove them in the comfort of one’s home.  It also gives practical guidelines on how to prevent new gallstones from being formed.  The widespread success of The Amazing Liver and Gallbladder Flush is a testimony to the power and effectiveness of the cleanse itself.  The liver cleanse has led to extraordinary improvements in health and wellness among thousands of people who have already given themselves the precious gift of a strong, clean, revitalized liver.

Andreas Moritz is a Medical Intuitive and practitioner of Ayurveda, Iridology, Shiatsu and Vibrational Medicine.  Author of The Amazing Liver and Gallbladder Flush, Timeless Secrets of Health and Rejuvenation, Lifting the Veil of Duality and It’s Time to Come Alive.  Founder of the innovative healing systems, Ener-Chi Art and Sacred Santemony – Divine Chanting for Every Occasion.

I intend on living a long life, so help me God – a healthy, long life!   I will avoid illness of whatever type so I can have my freedom to be mobile with a clean body, mind and heart.  I still have a dream to fulfill and I intend to grow up with my grandchildren and spend whatever time I have left with my great-grandchildren.

I intend to keep the filters in my body clean for a long-running engine!

Order this book online via my Amazon Associate account by clicking here.



The “Bromley” by Head N’ Home

The “Bromley” hanging out on a Spruce in the middle of a blueberry patch – Hoonah, Alaska

Who would post a blog entry about a hat?  Me, because, because…uh, because…I am what you call an “artist.” —-  I gotta tell ya:  These leather hand-made hats are from the company “Head N’ Home” in California; they are expensive yet well worth every dollar – There are all types of styles; this one is called the “Bromley”.  I chose this one because it didn’t have a wide brim; I can still see the sky, yet my face is protected from the sun, rain and wind.  I’ve used this hat in all four seasons, surprisingly keeps my head warm and dry and brings out the “equestrian rider” in me; like I can “ride” any “terrain” in this world and keep myself  “high and dry!”

I encourage you to check out their website:

The Addition of a Dear Friend: The Ukelele

After my mother and brother passed away in 2011 (along with other major “losses” in my life between 2009 and 2011), I felt I needed a “happy fix” or mend or healing; something that would help me let go of the trauma and drama.   For a long time, I felt a ukelele was coming to me, lingering around the eaves…then one fine Fall day in 2011, I bought myself the ukelele…and except for a 6 month period last year, I’ve been learning all kinds of songs and strums…it is truly the instrument of happiness and peace! – If everyone played the ukelele, there would be world peace!

At the beginning of 2012, I made a goal to learn one new song per week on the uke; i was going good until the first week of May (when the Ex presented another curve ball in my life).  Since May, I hadn’t played much less learn a new song every week – not until Christmas Day 2012; I spent the day playing.  My granddaughter was looking through these two song books (below) and I had forgotten we had these two gems for many years on the kids’ bookshelves.  Such a delight to find “Ghost Riders In the Sky”, “Tingo-Lay-O” and “This Little Light of Mine” (amongst other old timey favorites like “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”).  I play some of these songs with a combination of Native American chant, spaghetti western and Hispanic rhythm – if you can imagine that.

I learned three Christmas tunes including my all-time favorite “The Christmas Song” (starts out with “chestunuts roasting on an open fire…”) and I learned all of the above tunes as well.  I also learned the traditional Andean tune “El Condor Paza” made famous by Simon and Garfunkle.  I almost made up for lost time last year learning about 10 songs the past three weeks to the already 25 songs I know (4 of them Bob Dylan tunes).

For those of you who are interested in playing the ukelele, buy the next size up from the standard size uke, the “concert” size, from the Hawaiian Music Company.  Buy one with a plug-in so you can have the option of using an amp.  The uke is fairly easy to play.  To learn a few traditional and pop songs, plug into youtube and search for Ukelele Mike’s ukelele lessons.  He’s pretty simple, clear and ….well, different.

I appreciate the addition of this dear friend in my life.  Once I master this little guy, maybe in the next year or two, I am going to get myself the cello!


We’ve had these two kid’s song books in our family for over 25 years. They came with cassette tapes but those are long gone with all the moves we’ve made in that time period. Once you learn your chords, take up these books; they are packed with old-timey, simple songs that even your grandchildren will love to boogie!

I have no intentions of getting pulled off track this year if I can help it any.  I intend to learn one new song a week during this year.  Thank goodness I still have my aging wits about me that I can even REMEMBER the words to the songs!  heehee!

Playing ukelele during late Spring in the Colorado mountains at 10,000 feet amongst a grove of evergreens, aspens and wildflower meadow – the great thing about the ukelele is that it can go with you just about anywhere; it is lightweight and portable and when you put it in the overhead of the plane, people think you’re a violin maestro instead!

My friend Shar Fox just emailed me the group of folks playing ukelele, the Juneau JamBusters in Juneau, Alaska — check them out on their website at:

I know where I’ll be when I return to Juneau!

Juneau Gallery Walk – December 2012

Hand-caste paper feathers by Clarissa Rizal will be available for sale during Juneau’s First Friday Gallery Walk, December 7th, 2012

During the First Friday Gallery Walk, December 7th (4:30-7:30pm), Clarissa will be the guest artist at the “Aurora Healing Arts” on North Franklin Street just a half-block up from the Hearthside Books in downtown Juneau.

The hand-caste paper feathers above are made with recycled papers, with a vein of cedar bark trailing down through the middle of the feather to a mother-of-pearl button tipped with a strand of beads and with a crystal teardrop dangling at the end.

You may purchase the feathers with Native American quotes hand-written on them or there are blank ones to add your own inscription or keep it plain and simple!

Aurora Healing Arts is located on North Franklin Street a 1/2 block up from Hearthside Books in the Triangle Building in downtown Juneau

Aurora Healing Arts is owned and operated by Jan Parrish and Greg Garrison, featuring Infrared saunas, Devil’s Club salves and teas, healthy lifestyle products and herbal remedies.  Also, Jan has been a licensed acupuncturist/herbalist with nearly 30 years experience with a treatment room off the retail store outlet.  They recently opened a month ago.

Window into the world of “Aurora Healing Arts” – check out the paper feathers and all other good things for you in the window the next time you walk past…!

Aurora Healing Art’s uniquely exclusive Devil’s Club Chai tea in both decaff and caffeinated – and in my opinion, “Miracle Mend” is the best all-around healing salve

Auromatherapy spray mists “Raven Woman”, “Eagle’s Feather” and “Glacier Mist”…wonderfully fragrant for swinging into good moods!

Clarissa will have a variety of things available for your Christmas shopping options; they include:  beaded wool felt Russian-style 1800-s Navy hats, shrink-wrapped Giclee prints, hand-caste paper feathers, gumboot earrings, greeting cards, original charcoals, cell phone covers and Chilkat robe pattern board paintings on canvas.  (Note:  The limited edition of hand-printed, hand-sewn Tlingit dolls have all been sold.)

Below are photos of some of the items for sale at this December Gallery Walk in Juneau…

9 greeting card images of button blankets based on robes designed by Clarissa – buy them individually or in a pack of 9 – use them as greeting cards or mat and frame them!

Beaded Russian-style wool felt hats by Clarissa – long-time friend, Kamala with Clarissa stand in front of a Chilkat pattern board on canvas

Spraying clear laquer to set the charcoal (to prevent charcoal from smearing!) – “Totemic Theories” is a charcoal on canvas available for sale in two separate formats:   a wall panel measuring 28″w x 72″h and a free-standing column measuring 28″ x 76″

Dress up in your favorite, festive winter garb and join the Gallery Walk this coming Friday, December 7th; come visit  Auorora Healing Arts and have a swig of Devil’s Club Chai and a bite to eat while checking out Clarissa’s work – we look forward to seeing you!


“Chilkat Devil’s Club”

Adding the Devil's Club leaves to the black & white Chilkat robe design - acrylic painting on canvas measures approximately 24" h x 38" w - Clarissa Rizal; March 2012

I was commissioned by the NNAAPC (National Native American AIDS Prevention Center) in Denver, Colorado to create an image for this year’s convention.  Of course the theme is based on the awareness and attendance to health, healing and prevention.  They asked for a traditional image that would reflect their theme.  I couldn’t think of anything better than of course, Chilkat!

Added the traditional colors of yellow and blue along with the green leaves of the Devil's Club

If you’ve studied the older Chilkat robes of the past 200 years, you will notice there are robes that have similar designs, where there are slight changes between each robe, yet distinctly they are related –  like a variation on a particular theme.   I am doing this with my “Chilkat robe within a robe” series.  Although I have designed a couple of robes with this same theme for a couple of my students, my very first one that I designed and wove was called “Jennie Weaves An Apprentice” (which I finally finished weaving last August 20122), which is what this painting is based and of course I changed some of the design elements (i.e. smile faces as opposed to grims, etc.), yet the design description (described below) is very different than that of “Jennie…”

Almost completed - just need to add the Devil's Club berries, give the painting a more "painterly" effect, and a coat of matte medium

Native Americans used Devil’s Club both as food and medicine. The plant was traditionally used by Native Americans to treat adult-onset diabetes and a variety of tumors. Devil’s Club is employed as a blood tonic, used in salves for skin ailments, rheumetoid arthritis, cuts and bruises.  For spiritual protective purposes, the stalks were shaved of their thorns and placed above doorways, made into beads and worn on the person, and shaved stalk were placed in bowls and placed around the house.  Sometimes, Devil’s Club was dried and burned like an incense during certain spiritual ceremonies.  In vitro studies showed that extracts of Devil’s Club inhibit tuberculosis microbes.  Because Devil’s club is related to American Ginseng some think that the plant is an adaptogen. The plant has been harvested for this purpose and marketed widely as “Alaskan ginseng”, which may damage populations of Devil’s Club and its habitat, which is why many Alaska Native peoples are very protective of our Devil’s Club population; we do not want the plant to disappear because of capitalist exploitation.  We consider this plant very precious.

The plant is covered with brittle yellow spines that break off easily if the plants are handled or disturbed, and the entire plant has been described as having a “primordial” appearance. Devil’s Club is very sensitive to human impact and does not reproduce quickly. The plants are slow growing and take many years to reach seed bearing maturity, and predominately exist in dense, moist, old growth conifer forests in the Pacific Northwest, which is why we will harvest only what is needed.  There are times we will harvest the entire stalk if the need calls for this, otherwise, we will take a small cutting at the lower backside (the part that does not face the beach or face of the forest).  We never harvest the entire plant.  To ensure the continuance of the Devil’s Club, we dig a small hole nearby the area we have harvested and we place an “offering” of tobacco, cedar or sage – we are “giving back” and paying our respects.   Many Native American people consider ourselves “stewards of the land and sea.”

Devil’s Club generally grows to 3.5 to 5 feet tall; however, instances exist of it reaching in excess of 16 feet in rainforest gullies.  I have literally walked under “forests” of Devil’s Club.  The spines are found along the upper and lower surfaces of veins of its leaves as well as the stems. The leaves are spirally arranged on the stems, simple, palmately lobed with 5-13 lobes, 8 to 16 inches across. The flowers are produced in dense umbels 4 to 8 inches in diameter, each flower small, with five greenish-white petals. The highly poisonous fruit is a small red drupe 0.16 to 0.28 inches in diameter elongate in clusters.

Devil’s club reproduces by forming colonal colonies through a layering process. What can appear to be several different plants may actually have all been one plant originally, with the clones detaching themselves after becoming established by laying down roots.

This species usually grows in moist, dense forest habitats, and is most abundant in old growth conifer forests. It is found from Southcentral Alaska down throughout Southeastern Alaska to western Oregon and eastward to western Alberta and Montana.  Disjunct native populations also occur over 900 miles away in Lake Superior on Isle Royale and Passage Island, Michigan and Porphyry Island and Slate Island, Ontario.  I personally have seen Devil’s Club here and there in the higher elevations in marshy areas of the San Juan Mountains surrounding Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  The plants are not as large as those in Alaska, but then again, Alaska grows things big.

The completed "Chilkat Devil's Club" painting on canvas for NNAAPC by Clarissa Rizal - March 2012

Design Description of the painting entitled “Chilkat Devil’s Club”

The stylized Chilkat ceremonial robe design depicts a smaller Chilkat robe within a larger Chilkat robe which is part of a series of Chilkat robes portraying “a robe within a robe” image.  This particular theme is one that tells the story of the transference of indigenous knowledge healing methods from one person to another, or from one tribe to another, from one community to another, of from one culture to another; this is shown by way of the main human face (the Creator) who has gifted us the Devil’s Club and is flanked by the human faces on the top and left corner of the main robe who are holding the smaller robe (center lower half outlined in the yellow/black border) showing the recipient (smaller human face) of the healing knowledge and simultaneously the recipient of the healing modality.  In this case, although the Devil’s Club signifies the ancient healing methodology of the indigenous peoples mainly of the Northwest Coast across the Northern part of the U.S. and southern Canada to Ontario, because of small cottage industries in Alaska and Canada who are creating healing salves, teas and tinctures, the healing properties of Devil’s Club is available to anyone in the world.

The Making of a Regalia-Maker

Close-up of yoke of Tunic #1 - synthetic fringe, machine-embroidered trim, bias tape, felt body

I must have been almost 16 when I met him.  I think it was 1972.  He was part of a team of four Tlingit men who had come together under the organization of Gilbert Lucero.  At a time when the Native culture was just beginning to “sprout” back, Gilbert’s vision was to provide the young Native community of Juneau a holistic approach to help revive the Tlingit culture by way of evening classes for an entire month held at the Totem Center.  Cy Peck, Sr. came in from Angoon to teach the Native ways of conducting various ceremonies, clan ownership of the sacred objects and the Tlingit language; A.P. Johnson came from Sitka and introduced us to the conflicts of Native law vs. Western laws; and Harry Bremner, Sr. from Yakutat taught us the songs and dances of the Mt. St. Elias people.  (There was a fourth elder who was a part of the team and I can see his face so clearly but I cannot remember his name – he had a permanent smile on his face, not much taller than I, with a head of thick, white hair – he was the one who, upon seeing me for the first time, called out to Harry and exclaimed:  “Harry, come quickly, come!…Take a look at this nose!”) – Harry came up to me and looked at my face and checked out my nose.   (You can imagine how I was embarrassed!)  Harry then said:  “You!…I want you to be my song leader and drummer…!”).   That’s how I officially met Harry K. Bremner, Sr., 40 years ago.   Coming to know Harry during those next four years lead me down a path I have yet to stray.

Full view of Tunic #1 - sleevless with ties at the side

These are photographs of my very first Tlingit dance regalia.  They are styled after Yakutat’s Mt. St. Elias dancers’ regalia.  I had never sewn anything before.  I followed Harry’s instructions; he was the designer and knew exactly what he wanted.  One day Harry said we were going to the fabric store and making tunics…(for the five, young students who seemed most committed to the songs and dances.)  Those students included Deena (Aceveda) LaRue, Doug Patterson, Victoria (Canul) Dunne, Catrina (Camposano) Mitchell, and myself.  Harry was preparing us to perform with the Mt. St. Elias Dancers who were going to be touring Southeast Alaska (at a time when Native dance groups did not exist, much less touring dance groups, was unheard of).   None of us had any dance regalia; as far as I know, these were our very first regalia pieces.  We learned the songs of Yakutat and Mt. St. Elias.  Over the years, whenever I see the dancers perform and hear the songs, I feel a sentiment and a peace; I am immediately brought back to a time when these things were new, we were innocent to what lay ahead, and all of what I learned then is still a part of me now, as Harry helped bring me back home to myself.

My first five hand-sewn tunics - yes, indeed there are 6 and I don't remember making that one, but I've included it with the rest of these tunics; it has my clan emblem on it, the T'akDeinTaan, sewn to the front. I didn't know how to do the formline art back then so I KNOW I didn't make that tunic!

A few years ago, during the 2007 Clan Conference, I was talking with Elaine Abraham (Ramos), who is a niece to Harry.  She was telling me that Harry was talented at many things – being a tailor was one of those talents.  He had learned while he was living in Seattle working at a tailor shop.  My very first sewing lesson was a question Harry asked me:  “How long do you make the thread for your needle when you are hand-sewing?”  I shrugged my shoulders.  He replied:  “The proper length of your thread is the distance from the object being sewn and your arm outstretched…”  He added “…if you have it any longer than that, it will be too long and your thread will always tangle…”  I have sewn hundreds of garments, costumes and regalia since then, and I kid you not, every time I have threaded up a needle and measure the length, I have ALWAYS thought of Harry.  40 years, and most likely still going!

Brilliant blue felt tunic trimmed with white felt and a matching pair of cotton work gloves trimmed with yarn pompoms at the finger tips and outer sides of palm - with synthetic gold fringe - Harry used these kind of gloves when he danced; I don't think any of us had ever seen this type of dance regalia accessory before - nowadays, most of us are familiar to these pompommed gloves

Days before I graduated from high school, my mother asked me what I would like as a graduation gift.  I replied:  a sewing machine.  She looked perplexed “Huh?  You don’t sew…I’ve had a sewing machine for years and you’ve never used it…”  I replied “Well, if I had my own, I would sew…”  Graduation Day was on my 18th birthday.   My Mamma loves me; I received a brand new Genie Singer sewing machine – I love that machine.  I used to travel with my machine all the time!  The machine is compact, light-weight and is able to fit under the seat on a jet!  Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve sewn hundreds of items.  I taught myself how to read patterns and make clothing.  I made clothing for my children, family members and friends.  I brought it to a Chilkat weaving workshop in Haines in 1985 and after class I sewed two dresses for my Chilkat weaving teacher, Jennie Thlunaut.  (In fact, she is wearing a dress I made for her in some of the last photographs of her taken by photographer, Larry McNeil.)  Although I have a sophisticated Bernina, and I have a classic 1935 Singer sewing machine in a cabinet, I still use my Genie on occasion.  I’ve even bought this same model for each of my daughters.  When my mother saw the results of her gift, and witnessed my involvement with the Native songs and dance, she sewed me a button robe with a beaded emblem of our clan crest, the T’akDeinTaan.  Funny thing, I had no idea my mother could sew button robes!

Tunic #3 - trimmed with bias tape, cult felt fringe and single strands of beads and sequins at the bodice

Harry was from the Kwaashki’kwaan from the Owl House in Yakutat.  He said the T’akDeinTaan branched from Yakutat area by way of a tributary called T’akDein of the Alsek River.  He said because we were  related, I could call him “Grandpa.”  He was a gentleman and had a sophisticated dignity about his appearance.  I am not saying vanity in a negative way; I speak of it with respect in reference to this man.  He was in his early 80’s and was gently proud of his physique – he made me note his  42″ barrel chest slimming down to a 32″ waist with no potbelly whatsoever.   He had a brisk, direct walk.  His mind was alert.  And there has not been a Native dancer of his age like him; whoa, could this man dance!  When I visited him in Yakutat in 1975, I discovered he was still building a house, building a boat and still went fishing!  (At the time, me being only just 16, I was unawares of how remarkable he was – but now looking back upon it, I realize this amazing elder was in great shape.)  Harry was a hunter, fisherman and he played the mandolin.  (Now that I think about it, this guy was my kind of man!)

Tunic #4 - this was the tunic I wore - red felt body with blue synthetic fringe, bias tape and single strands of beads and sequins

I had no idea until a few years ago my mother had kept these tunics in her closet all these years!  She asked me if I wanted them; of course!  I am thankful to my Mamma that she kept these; she knew the value in them.  In the meantime, she watched me designing and making button robes after button robes.  She probably knew that although I had “neglected” these tunics, as I was young and going out into the wide blue world, I may want them some day.  Of course!   They are like little treasures of historical documents with the young sweat of our DNA and they were an introduction to a way of life I had not even imagined.  Because Harry and I worked on these tunics, they are part Harry and part me.  Can you tell I have deep admiration, respect and love for this man?  And I am thankful that my Mamma saved these tunics; I think my Mamma is proud of me.   I am fortunate to have these pieces as they are the living proof of where I began as a maker of regalia; it is living proof of how specific people in one’s life can make all the difference of what we be and do.

Full view of Tunic #4 - this was one of two tunics I had sewn that had sleeves - it was the first time I had sewn sleeves on anything - I do not have a photo of the other tunic; it belongs to Catrina (Camposano) Mitchell

Harry told me many stories; his voice would change when he was telling me something of great importance, something he wanted me to take heed.  As he was telling the following parable, I could “see” the entire imagery; and, maybe that is why I have remembered this “lesson” well…and maybe I’ve remembered this lesson because I applied it to my life…

“Say you are across the sea on another continent and you will be taking a long return voyage home.  The voyage might take a week, it might take a month, but whatever the length of time, you take care of yourself so you can make the long journey.  You will not be drinking the pop or the alcohol – you will not eat bad food; if you do, you know what happens, you will get seasick and puke over the side.  Depending upon how much you abuse or neglect your self, you may not make the long journey back home…stay away from these things so you may make that long journey and return to your self and know who you are…”

Harry K. Bremner, Sr. and I - Yakutat airport - April 1975

Visiting Yakutat After 36 Years

Harry K. Bremner, Sr. and Clarissa - Yakutat airport - April 1975

For the first time in 1975 upon an invite to see what Native elders called “the land of milk and honey”; I went to Yakutat to visit “Grandpa” Harry K. Bremner, Sr. (In an upcoming blog entry, I will write about the influence of Grandpa Harry in my life).  Take note of the above photograph; the airport road is newly-paved and the trees are so much shorter than what they are today! — for those of you who are wondering where the heck is Yakutat, Alaska, look at a map of Alaska, find Anchorage, then locate Juneau and look about half way in between the two and you will find Yakutat on the coast, right up there with the big Malaspina Glacier.  Pretty awesome!  As most of you know, Alaska is Alyeska, the Great Land! And we Alaskans are proud of our country!

June 2011 – It’s been 36 years since I set foot in Yakutat.  Upon an invite by my friend Jan the traveling accupuncturist, and a reminder from my friend Preston who was guest speaker at the 1st Annual Yakutat Tern Festival this past weekend and, since my children and grand-children all flew south to attend their other grandparent’s family reunion, and I’ve gone through some heavy-duty, non-stop,  life-changing events over the past three years, (golly!) I decided it was high time to take some R&R and visit Yakutat again!  Yet, as usual I had to do something to offset my travel costs, so with the support and assistance of Walter and MaryAnn Porter, I taught a class in spinning Chilkat warp.   (For those interested in the cedar bark class, look for the blog entry recently posted “Spinning Chilkat In Yakutat).

The following photographs are the day trip to the biggest beach I’ve ever seen that runs North/South called Canon Beach:

As we approach Canon Beach, we pass over a waterway of lily pads

As we came across this bridge and saw this view of the pond, I remembered the swans we saw here in 1975 – it was the first time in my life I had ever seen swans.  And since then, every time I see swans, I have thought of this place here in Yakutat.

36 years ago, we had lunch with Grandpa Harry in this spot - it was a good feeling to be here again!

I have a few more photos taken back in 1975 during my visit in Yakutat; I’m not sure where they are, but I’ll have to do some investigating!  I want to include them sometime sooner than later.

Boogie Boarders skim the shore's wild surface of icy cold Yakutat waters - I tell ya, if I were 16 again, I'd be out there boarding - so much fun!

The very first time I had ever seen big waves like these were in Yakutat at this beach in ’75.  Then a few years ago, I had heard that surfers came from around the world to surf this beach.  We’ll yeah, man!

Although there were none today, surfers from around the world ride Yakutat waves

Sand Texture - I remember the beach sands being whiter, hmmm...I'm going to have to find those photos from 36 years ago and compare!

I swear - in Yakutat, there are more eagles riding the rip tides of the wind than there are seagulls!

Laying on the beach and admiring the textures of the sky while a lone comber goes to that place of meditation where water meets shore

Had to go find out what that thing was over there...(?)--Obviously something that didn't make it back afloat!

A rotting barge adds rustic color as tides ebb and flow

"Windows" of the sea

A lone pebble

When the tide goes out, there are thousands of small, polished pebbles on this beach.  It was odd to find one all by its lonesome.

Like I did 36 years ago, I will be taking memories of the land and sea, yet this time, with little pebbles for little grand-daughter hands in Colorado

You are probably wondering where are the photos of the actual village of Yakutat?  Well, when I post the blog entry about Harry K. Bremner, Sr., I will include a few shots of the village.  Stay tuned.

The Unique Beauty of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

Baskets waiting to be filled with treasures from the Easter egg hunt...

SikiKwaan with a filled basket in front of the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

I’ve taken our church for granted; that’s a normal thing they say cuz I grew up with this church and we all take things for granted that are a part of our everyday experience.  Even so, that’s no excuse.

I had not ever really appreciated the full beauty of our Russian Orthodox Church  ( in Juneau until a friend, who was brought up in the Catholic Church across the street, had attended my brother’s memorial service a few weeks ago, commented on the beauty of the ceremony.  “So I got to thinking about it…”  (A statement that our elders would say when they contemplated…)  The following are some of my thoughts on the subject of our unique beauty of our church:

Inside the church - view left

What church in Juneau is over 100 years old, and was built at the request of the Tlingit people in this area who helped actually design and build their church?  What other church in Juneau has this kind of history combined with the elegance of the original paintings on canvas of those over 100 years old along side recent modern ones?  Who else in town has a round church?    Who else still burns untainted incense and burns hand-dipped beeswax candles during every service?  Who else wears the traditional embroidered garments and robes during every service and wear crowns during significant ceremonies?  Who else decorates their alter with satin cloths and real flowers?  Who else serves actual wine and fresh-baked unleavened bread for communion?  Who else has the congregation stand during the entire service of 2 hours?  (Actually, there are chairs for those who need to sit.)  What other church in Juneau has respected the Tlingit traditions for over 100 years and continues to integrate some of those traditions with the Russian Orthodox ways of doing things?  AND who else sings traditional chants in 3 languages of Slavonic, Tlingit and English!?

Holy!  After I got to thinking about all these things, I realized we’ve got one heck of a church that stands out amongst all of them in this community!

Inside the church - view right, where the choir stands

You would think that this being a unique church just in its visual richness and cross-cultural integrations, there would be more folks attending.  Yet, not.   As the elderly Native folks who were baptized many years ago pass away, and technology has shaped us over the years to have an attention span that requires more “entertainment” as long as it is short-lived, most folks do not have the patience to stand for almost 2 hours during a ceremony.  If so, we have been conditioned into being “rewarded” with something if we are going to “suffer” through 2 hours of standing!  Holy!

SikiKwaan finds another treasure!

Tichnon has filled his basket he handmade himself!

Directly after the Easter Sunday services, the church shared a potluck meal with traditional foods of Russia and Alaska Native - we've got the best of both worlds for more than one hundred years! -- Father Simeon cuts the roast lamb

Our traditionally-favorite Easter bread "kulich" - this loaf was made by Nora Dauenhauer - she has one of the best recipes!

Come visit our church; open your mind to another experience unique to this area.  Stand for yourself and with all those around you.  Show yourself that you have the discipline to stand and can pay attention and be alert to the life and love around us.  It is true not all in life is rosy; not all is comfortable.  However, when we stand up for ourselves, we gain an inner and outer strength; if you need a “reward”, let this be enough reason.  Here’s an open invitation to come stand with us and share an inner and outer elegance.

Subsistence Foods Presentation by Helen Watkins

Subsistence gatherer Helen Watkins' - the photos to her right are her relatives including her mother, grandmother and an image of the cabin off of Mud Bay Road in Haines, Alaska where she would spend the Summers gathering the abundant variety of indigenous foods

Helen Watkins’ presentation on subsistence foods of the Tlingit in Southeast Alaska was a real hit which included information on gathering and preservation, a raffle for a number of jarred items including soapberries, smoked salmon, blueberry jelly, etc., AND a fantastic luncheon.  This presentation was held at the University of Alaska Glacier View Room and was part of “The Art of Place” cultural series sponsored by the UAS coordinated by UAS English Professor, Ernestine Hayes.

Kathy Ruddy tries the fluffy, whipped soap berries

An essay from the Tundra Times, the following on Native Subsistence Rights was the handout at her presentation:


Central to the issue of Native Rights is the fact that Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures exist today as viable human communities.  these cultures have not disappeared into history textbooks or museum shelves.  each culture is composed of human beings who share attitudes, values and social patterns giving meaning and identity to the lives of individual members. food and its acquisition are involved by a culture’s value system and are considered important to a group’s survival.  consideration of Native Rights as they concern wild vegetable foods requires that one respect the importance of wild foods to the cultural survival of Native groups.

Approximately 50+ folks showed up for the presentation; this image shows a small percentage of the eager and hungry audience

Attitudes, values and social patterns affect which foods are considered desirable, how the foods are prepared and in what manner served.  native cultures are functioning communities:  the importance of indigenous foods can be witnessed at Indian parties, celebrations,funeral gatherings, ANB and ANS social functions as well as in individual homes throughout Southeast.  some of the vegetables included in this publication are important foods for Native people of Southeast:  these foods contribute to cultural identity and traditions..

A stock of jarred goodies include soap berries, beach asparagus, smoked salmon, blueberry, raspberry and nagoonberry jams, to name a few

In the past, indigenous foods of Southeast Alaska provide for more than cultural identity:  the foods made possible the vigorous existence of Native people.  The journals, diaries and logs of explorers, traders and missionaries who first encountered the Native people of Southeast reported the people as being healthy and robust.  The people were also noted for their intelligence in trading and their finely crafted material possessions.  The Native diet provided for basic nutritional needs through utilization of indigenous plant and animal foods.  Studies by social scientist, conducted primarily during this century, demonstrate an extensive knowledge of plant and animal resources by Native people.  From their knowledge of the natural environment, Native people were able to effectively provide themselves with the necessary requirements for bodily growth, maintenance and well-being.

Photographs of Native raw or prepared foods

Much of the original knowledge concerning Native plant foods seems to have disappeared.  The loss is directly attributable to the take-over of the land by non-Natives.  As contact between Native and non-native cultures increased, change was inevitable; the Natives’ control of the environment was slowly taken away.  Some changes were beneficial and offered material improvements.  but for the most part, new changes weakened established cultural patterns, creating an unhealthy stress for Native people.  In the transition, old knowledge of how to live off available plant resources became less and less important to survival.  Learning how to adapt to a new economic system became more important for individuals and groups.  Increased exposure to new technology, processed foods, alcohol and commercial goods created new pressures, changing aspects of Native culture along with its relationship to the natural environment.

Based on the decline in everyday use of wild vegetables and in the few species still collected, knowledge of plant foods seems to have suffered in the process.  It is, however, the remaining knowledge and use of plant food which is important to contemporary Native identity.  Some old patterns of plant food utilization have outlived the onslaught of westernization.

Micaela Kunz gives Helen a hug after winning a jar of precious smoked salmon in the raffle

Recognizing the contribution of Native food to cultural identity involves a concern for acquiring that food.  Ownership of land affects how the land will be used.  The Native concept of land ownership differers from that of the non-native.  Native ownership is collective seasonally utilized and concerned directly with land use as a primary food or materials resource, while non-native ownership tends to be private, irrespective of season and to view land in terms of monetary value.  Notice the difference in the following two hypothetical statements by a Native person and non-native person speaking about land at Elfin Cove.

Native:  “Elfin Cove is where my family goes for summer camp.  We collect our food there:  fish, berries and roots that we need for winter.”

Non-native:  “I own five acres of beach front property in elfin cove right beside a small salmon stream.  I am going to build some rental units there.”

Both individuals have a sense of ownership over the land and both will use the land but in different ways.  These two types of ownership have not proven able to co-exist to the mutual benefit of both cultures.  The non-native culture has developed a stronger political and economic base and so largely controls land use.  Consequently, Native use of the land as food resource has suffered; the availability of indigenous food has been limited.

Helen creates a subsistence salad with the help of an audience volunteer

The manner in which Native people traditionally practiced gardening further reflects their concept of land ownership.  Large patches of fireweed and red clover were cleared of debris and harvested carefully so as to allow for regrowth during the following season.  These plots, found throughout the tribe’s territory were the property of either the entire village, a specific clan or perhaps an individual household.

Native rights, as considered in this publication, involve recognizing the importance of Native foods to cultural survival and honoring Native land use patterns.  These patterns reflect Native rights to acquire indigenous foods.  Respect should be based on an understanding and acceptance of the values and traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people of Southeast Alaska.  Respectful attitudes should be extended into respectful behavior.  the person who intends to use this material to teach should seek the approval and guidance of Native elders before exposing the food resources of an area.  too often native people have lost a valuable food resources of an area.  Too often Native people have lost a valuable food resource because of thoughtless non-native ownership.  Wild vegetables are a sensitive issue with many Native people because of the threat to an aspect of their cultural heritage.  Respect for Native rights means:  1) being sensitive to Native culture; 2) accepting the differences, and 3) seeking approval and guidance from Native elders in the community.

I only ask of you that if you do pick from the land, you do so with the thought of us:  the Alaskan Natives who live off the land.  Thank you.”

—   Helen Abbott Watkins

The cross-cultural explosion of a fantastic feast!

Thank you, Helen for keeping up the traditions of our people, sharing your knowledge, sharing your hospitality and sharing your food!  We appreciate every bit and bite!