Seventh and eighth grade students from all over Alaska will be arriving in Sitka this week for the 12th annual Alaska Native Student Wisdom Enrichment Retreat, commonly known as ANSWER Camp, a 12-day residential program for Alaska Native students sponsored by the Southeast Regional Resource Center (SERRC) out of Juneau.
Students at the ANSWER Camp stay at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka for two weeks of intensive science, math and cultural experiences as they explore traditional methods of food preservation. ANSWER Camp takes place from July 17-30, and it is free to the 75-80 students lucky enough to be selected from several rural Alaska communities to participate in the program. A U.S. Department of Education grant pays for the students’ transportation to and from Sitka, their housing and food.
ANSWER Camp makes math and science instruction more meaningful for the students by linking traditional Alaska Native values to western scientific principles. The program prepares middle school students from rural Alaska to enter high school, and it helps make science and math come alive for the students as they learn how even traditional cultural activities such as preserving subsistence foods are affected by science and math.
While the students prepare salmon, they will do tests to see how different brine mixtures affect the taste (chemistry). They also will learn how to preserve berries, seaweed and medicinal plants. The students will learn biology by studying critters, and they will gather different plants to study botany. ANSWER Camp has helped steer many students toward science and health careers later in life.
This is one of several camps in the Sitka area that teach people about traditional foods from Southeast Alaska. The Sitka Native Education Program (SNEP) hosts several events during the summer, as so do Sitka residents John and Roby Littlefield at their Dog Point Fish Camp. The Alaska Native Sisterhood camp in Sitka also hosts traditional foods camps at Dog Point Fish Camp.