View of St. Paul Island
Photo by Rachel Sprouse

When I first learned about Where Are Your Keys, and that they offer summer internships in Unangax̂ Territory, I was really excited. I am an Unangax̂ that grew up away from my homelands, and I saw this an opportunity to learn my language, visit my homelands for the first time, and build stronger relationships with other Unangax̂ people. Four weeks into the summer, I was eager to continue building a relationship with community members in St. Paul. For this reason, my peers (the other WAYK interns) and I joined community members on a plant identification walk hosted by the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. The tribe hosts walks during the year, and we decided to participate this summer. During the hike, I was inspired by the knowledge that Marjorie Baker, a member of the Unangam Tunuu Teaching and Listening Team, had about the plants we were seeing. Marjorie is a part of the Unangam Tunuu Speaking Listening Teaching (UTSLT) Team, the program that WAYK is working with this year. 

A few weeks following the hike, we were wrapping up a day of speaking and learning Unangam Tunuu and I saw this as an opportunity to learn from Marjorie about the island, and plants. At the end of the day I approached Marjorie and asked to interview her about the plants, the language, and the community. We sat in the corner of the room next to Heather, another member of the team, while she filled in her hunting books and started the interview.

Can you remind me of the name of the place we went hiking?

Marjorie: We went to the corral and Polovina Hill. The corral (right below Polovina Hill) is a place we go for traditional gatherings. We eat reindeer and seal and everyone brings a plate [there]. Everyone brings buckets for berry picking.

What kind of berries do you pick? And What time of year do you go picking?

Marjorie: Mossberries. We usually go around August and when school starts. The entire school goes and we will see the whole community there. 

What plant did you pick when we went hiking?

Marjorie: The plant I picked is called yarrow. It’s a traditional and healing plant that Aleuts use for sickness and sore throats in a tea. It can cure upset stomachs and open wounds. 

Who taught you about yarrow?

Marjorie: Aquilina [the director of the UTSLT program] and tons of presentations and from the “Unangam Hitnasangin.” This is a book for teaching about—[Heather takes a break from her hunting book and chimes in] Heather: There is a gift shop at the airport with a circle table and display just for books. You can get the book there.

What did you do with the yarrow after the hike?

Marjorie: Right after harvesting, I threw it in boiling water. Boiled it until the water turns greenish yellow. I put ten leaves in the water. I used a medium pot and filled it ¾ full. 

Anything else you want to share?

Marjorie: It was the best tea I ever drank. It cured a small headache I had from sniffing flowers all day. 

It’s a relaxing tea….it made me super sleepy. 

Before I ever used to make tea I have used it (yarrow) to rub it in my hands for the fragrance. It has a musky minty small.

This was the first time I have made this tea and definitely will not be my last.

I am looking forward to trying Marjorie’s tea, and I am sure it will not be the last time I try it either. 

Post authored by Talia.

Written by Evan Gardner