Camping with Elder Mentor Anna Mae Andrew

Hi, my name is Anna Mae Andrew and I am 76 years old. My maiden name is Anna Mae Walcott. I have lived in New Stuyahok for more than 50 years-I moved here in 1968. I grew up in Ekook, where it is beautiful all year long. I got married in New Stuyahok to a local named Moxie S. Andrew. My hobbies include sewing, knitting and crocheting cultural things, and also artwork. I love to travel on a boat to my fish camp and camp outdoors up the river, and I love subsistence fishing. Splitting fish during the summer for winter, too. I also like to go outdoors to pick cultural medicines. Berry picking is the best. There is nice wilderness here and beautiful places to camp. What I love about New Stuyahok is that it is a great place to raise a family, the lovely scenery and friendly people. And I cherish my work with the students.

This summer has been cold. Every morning at 5 a.m., I wake up and light the wood stove to get it going for the day. My son gets up and goes to check the net when the tide comes in. I watch the stove and get it warm in there. My daughter-in-law cooks breakfast.

During the day after they split fish, I go to the smokehouse and check on the fish smoking all day. My family doesn't want me to work too hard, so I do some cooking and washed dishes. We get our drinking water from one hill; it's nice, cold spring water. It takes about an hour to get there then we fill up our jugs. We don't drink the river water.

We bring our own food out to camp. We have eggs, hashbrowns and pancakes in the morning. I love to drink coffee with milk and sugar, sweet, not black. As I get older, I like to have sweet coffee. I used to drink it black, but no more. I do the afternoon cooking for lunch. I love to cook fresh fish from the bay. Sometimes on a nice, hot day, we cook on the beach roasting the fish over the fire. I love my king salmon fish heads and tail. I boil them with water and salt, and we eat them with cut-up raw onions. I haven't seen many birds this summer because of the weather, but we see lots of swallows, eagles, seagulls and cranes.

I love reading and doing word puzzles while I sit by the bank and watch the smokehouse. I tell my boys, "take me up river, I wanna go riding on Nushagak River," for a picnic and the kids swim. So we go and camp. This year no blueberries, which I love to pick. Maybe next year.

I started off as a special education aide and retired in 2000, then decided to start volunteering and get back in the schools as an Elder Mentor. I love working with people. I've been an Elder Mentor for most likely 23 years. Our schools in New Stuyahok have plenty of resources with helpful staff, and there are a variety of cultures in which we can learn from each other.

I have so much fun volunteering with the children at our elementary school. Our village respects Elders, and when the children see us, they show that respect to us and carry on with their schoolwork. I enjoy helping students practice a traditional subsistence lifestyle, teaching them cultural ways and helping them do different activities. I knit and sew, and teach the kids how to do it during our cultural week. I also tell stories and read stories.

Volunteering as an Elder Mentor with RurAL CAP has been great. It gives me something to look forward to every day. It would be so helpful to have more Elder Mentors.

"Anna Mae Andrew has been working with students during our E-Week and daily lessons," says Tatiana Andrew, Chief Ivan Blunka School Site Supervisor. It's really nice to have Elders in our class. I enjoyed working with her."

Here are Anna Mae Andrew's Tundra Tea and Blueberry Jam recipes:

Tundra Tea and Blueberry Jam by Anna M. Andrew

Here's how I make Tundra Tea. I pick two cups of Hudson Bay tea leaves and then clean them. Boil the leaves in four cups of hot water until the water turns the color brown. Strain and drink when ready.

Blueberry Jam

Makes 1 ¼ cups and takes 25 to 30 minutes.

You need a saucepan, spoon, measuring cups and measuring spoons.

Ingredients: 4 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen), 1 cup sugar, one tablespoon lemon juice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook on medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, crushing berries with the back of your spoon to release the juice. Mixture will be thick and chunky. After cooking, serve hot however you like it or store the jam for later.

Join the Elder Mentor program

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 Reach the team via e-mail at Search "Elder Mentor" on Facebook.

The Elder Mentor program volunteers and staff wish Tatianna Andrew a happy retirement. She has been a site supervisor for the program for several years. Thanks for all you do.

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