New Stuyahok Elder Mentor Anna Neketa
June 1, 2023 | View PDF
The Elder Mentor Program is pleased to continue our monthly feature in Senior Voice, each article highlighting an Elder Mentor who has generously offered their time, support, wisdom and care to their local communities throughout Alaska. For the next three months, our New Stuyahok Elder Mentors will be sharing their stories and recipes. Elder Mentors volunteer in school with students, serving as role models, tutors and, often, also Culture Bearers. Culture Bearers pass down their knowledge to the next generation, and the youth listen and honor them in return. New Stuyahok Elder Mentors serve as Culture Bearers at their local school, Chief Ivan Blunka School.
New Stuyahok is a primarily Yupik community located on the Nushagak River in Southwest Alaska. There is a post office, school, store and health clinic in the village. The village is accessible by air from Anchorage and Dillingham. Chief Ivan Blunka School was built in 2008. There are about 150 students in the school. The primary economic base in New Stuyahok is the salmon fishery; 43 residents hold commercial fishing permits. Many trap as well. The entire community relies on subsistence foods. Subsistence items are often traded between communities. Salmon, moose, caribou, rabbit, ptarmigan, duck and geese are the primary sources of meat. (This information is sourced from the Southwest Region School District website at http://www.swrsd.org. Visit online to learn more.)
My name is Anna G. Neketa, and I was born in Nunacuak, Alaska, which is a few bends away from my current village of New Stuyahok, where I live now. I am the daughter of the late Cavelila Gust and Anuska Gust, granddaughter to Vera Nicholai, whom they call Mar'aq. My grandmother and her siblings populated Koliganek, New Stuyahok, and Ekwok. My grandmother walked from the Bethel area to IIgayak, which is the Mighty Nushagak River, with her siblings. They'd go to Lewis Point every spring and summer to put up fish and come back up the channel of Nushagak River.
New Stuyahok is populated with approximately 600 people, and at present I am the eldest in our village. All my peers have gone, but maybe three of us in my age group stand now. I married my husband Peter on Aug. 12, 1994. We continued to live in New Stuyahok.
I've been in the Elder Mentor Program since I was invited. I love this program very much. Money is not the issue when it comes to our children, but it helps me. I enjoy the kids. The children keep me alive, and have the eagerness and willingness to be attentive. I learn from the kids as they do from us. Kids are so smart, puqik, and are fast learners. My message to the kids is to stay away from drugs and alcohol, listen to your parents, and continue to strive to be your very best. Learn one thing a day if you're not teaching, and share your wisdom, for God gave you a mind to use and two working hands. I will go until I am not mobile because we are strong and indigenous.
Become a Mentor
Aanu's daughter, Sophie Neketa Johnson, says, "My mom has been working in this program for a while. She really loves what she does in the Yupik room. She does not know a word of English and cannot hear. There are other Elders in the room with a few school staff members, and they love her. She's the eldest in the village. She says kids keep her alive and thriving. She loves the age groups that she works with. She loves the school staff."
The Elder Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the coming school year. Benefits for qualifying seniors 55+ include paid time off, a tax free stipend, paid holidays, free meals and travel assistance. Please call for more information and to apply, 907-865-7276, and check out the online application and learn more at https://eldermentor.org. Reach the team via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Search "Elder Mentor" on Facebook.
Aanu's Famous Fish Akutaq recipe
This is a very popular dish, even among folks who don't often enjoy fish. Preparation and cooking time: about an hour total. One fish is four to six servings.
1 to 2 white fish or halibut
2.5 big spoonfuls of Crisco
1.5 cups of sugar (depends on how sweet you prefer)
Tundra berries: blue, black, cranberries, and salmon berries (or whatever mixture you want)
1 ripe banana crushed
1.5 fresh strawberries
½ cup raisins or diced dried prunes
Boil fish and debone while hot, so you can remove excess water from the boiled fish. In a bowl, add Crisco until mixed and whipped, then add the sugar and fish. I like using a blender to mix and fluff the berries. Once the Crisco sugar is mixed well, add the crushed bananas and raisins, and whip by hand, or with a spoon, until well blended. Then add the remaining ingredients of berries. Keep cool in the refrigerator in a tight container until ready to use.