Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Pacific High School win National Volunteers and Service Award

Due to COVID-19 social-distancing requirements, Michelle Putz of the USDA Forest Service Sitka Ranger District planted Tlingít potatoes by herself in April 2020.

Tlingít potatoes

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska (STA) and the Pacific High School gardening class (PHS) were recognized at the Sitka Tribal Council’s Zoom meeting on August 19, 2020, for being two of seven recipients of the USDA Forest Service’s 2019 National Volunteers and Service Award. The award was earned through their collaboration with the Tongass National Forest’s Sitka Ranger District to build awareness about a traditional food source, the Tlingít potato, also known as Maria’s potato.

Sitka District Ranger Perry Edwards and Regional Forester David Schmid, and others, will present a plaque and a letter signed by USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.

“These award winners really demonstrate and put into action our agency core values of service, of conservation, diversity, of safety and our interdependence,” said Chief Christiansen, during the award announcement video on June 19, 2020. “As Forest Service employees we understand that relationships with people and communities are absolutely essential in achieving our mission. Thank you so much and congratulations for your outstanding contributions in helping us achieve our important conservation mission.”

Community members plant Tlingít potatoes in April 2019 as part of an Earth Day celebration.

Seventy-three nominations were submitted for this year’s awards, the highest number of nominations to the annual awards program in the past 10 years. Nominees exemplified the Forest Service’s core values of service, conservation, diversity, interdependence and safety.

Edwards believes the project and partnership has strengthened relationships with the Sitka Tribe and local schools, giving much of the credit for its success to tribal and school leadership.

“Tammy Young from the Sitka Tribe has been an incredible force behind this project, as have several teachers and the principal at Pacific High School,” said Edwards. “It has connected the Tribe, Sitka’s Pacific High School and the Forest Service in shared stewardship of a traditional resource.”

“Sitka Tribe of Alaska is so pleased that our District Ranger office chose some five years ago to begin this project working with our Tribal citizens on revitalizing the cultivation of our tried and true crop, the Tlingit potato,” said Kathy Hope Erickson, tribal chairman for Sitka Tribe of Alaska. “There have been local people throughout the years continuing this tradition of native horticulture, but the extra effort and outreach by the collaborators has breathed new life into this practice. For this we are grateful to our partners. We wish too, to thank the Forest Service for recognizing that the ‘forest’ includes not just trees, but all creatures in and around it, the flora and fauna who are interdependent on it and each other for a complete existence.”

• Kathy Hope Erickson’s salmon/potato patties win top honors in Fish To Schools recipe contest

Members of the panel of judges sample one of the recipes in the Fish To Schools Recipe Contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at the Sheldon Jackson Campus/Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Members of the panel of judges sample one of the recipes in the Fish To Schools Recipe Contest at the Sitka Seafood Festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, at the Sheldon Jackson Campus/Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Recipe Contest FinalKathy Hope Erickson claimed top honors in the Fish To Schools recipe contest during the Sitka Seafood Festival, and two younger chefs tied for second place.

Kathy submitted a recipe for salmon and potato patties, which she served with a special chili ketchup, and won a gift certificate to Ludvig’s Bistro for her efforts. Tying for second place were Zoe Trafton, age 8, with her recipe for salmon mac and cheese, and Ava Newell (with her father Mike), age 8, with her recipe for coconut pecan rockfish with a blueberry dipping sauce. Zoe and Ava both won t-shirts. A panel of nine judges, including a couple of students, rated the recipes.

In all, eight local chefs submitted recipes for the contest, which was hosted by the Sitka Conservation Society, which coordinates the Sitka Fish To Schools Program to put more healthy local seafood into school lunches. The other recipes included sesame-veggie salmon cakes with tangy apple slaw by Beth Short-Rhoads and her daughter Kat Rhoads, age 6; salmon pinwheels from Judi Ozment; healthy salmon fish fingers from Anna Bisaro; baked salmon with dill from Matt Jones; and salmon-veggie wraps from Charles Bingham.

The purpose of the contest was to collect kid-friendly fish entree recipes that can be made for school lunches as part of the Fish to Schools program. The dishes should be healthy and easy to make (no special appliances). Baking the fish is preferred over frying, and recipes should be low in sodium and fat. The top seafood dishes will be used in school lunches at the Sitka School District, the state-run Mount Edgecumbe High School, and the private SEER School.

The top three recipes are posted below, and all eight recipes can be found in the attachment. For more information about the recipe contest and the Sitka Fish To Schools Program, click this link or call Sophie Nethercut or Tracy Gagnon of the Sitka Conservation Society at 747-7509.

• 2014 Fish To Schools Recipe Contest Submissions (attachment includes all eight recipes)

School Lunch Salmon Patties With Chili Ketchup (Makes 12)

Winning Recipe submitted by Kathy Hope Erickson, Sitka

  • KathyHopeErickson1 pint jar salmon
  • 2 cups cooked potatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped onions
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon onion seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salad herbs – dried
  • 12 Ritz crackers

Mix all, form into patties, fry in heated vegetable oil, or alternatively, spray with cooking spray and bake in 400-degree oven.

Chili Ketchup

For dipping fish patties: Combine 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 4 1/2 teaspoon onion, and 3/4 cup ketchup.


Coconut Pecan Rockfish With Blueberry Dipping Sauce

2nd place: Submitted by Mike and Ava Newell (age 8), Sitka

  • MikeAndAvaNewel1 lb. rockfish fillets
  • 1 T coconut milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 C pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 C shredded coconut
  • 2 T plain breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rockfish on baking sheet. Pour coconut milk over fish. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Combine pecans, coconut, and bread crumbs in a bowl. Press coconut mixture onto top of fish fillets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until fish is opaque throughout

Blueberry Dipping Sauce

  • 1 C wild blueberries, rinsed
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/4 C coconut milk
  • 1/2 T cornstarch
  • salt

Place blueberries and water in small saucepan. Simmer until berries burst. Strain berries through fine mesh sieve into small bowl. Add coconut milk to bowl. Pour sauce back into saucepan. Mix cornstarch with a little bit of cold water until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to sauce. Stir and heat until boiling. Continue to boil until desired thickness. Serve with rockfish


Salmon Mac ‘n Cheese
2nd place: Submitted by Zoe Trafton (age 8), Sitka

  • ZoeTrafton1 cup cooked salmon, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar and jack recommended)
  • 2 cups shell pasta
  • ½ cup finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • ½ cup Alfredo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Boil shells in medium pot. Sauté onions and mushrooms for three minutes. Add salmon to mushrooms and onions. Drain water and add pasta. Add cheese. Add Alfredo sauce and hot sauce. Mix carefully. Add spices and serve.