From the Ocean to Your Table: Native Food Is Healthy Food By Sealaska intern Sydney anderson

The people of Southeast Alaska have lived in harmony with the ocean for generations.

Fish, shellfish and ocean-based plants have nourished the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian for thousands of years. A diet rich in lean proteins from fish, healthy fats like hooligan grease and high-antioxidant fruits like blueberries, helped fuel and sustain one of the largest non-agricultural populations in the world. These foods contributed to the development of a rich culture and healthy people.

The Alaska fishery is one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. In the last year, Sealaska invested in two seafood companies, Independent Packers Corporation (IPC) and Odyssey. These investments have been both purposeful and strategic.

The industry touches every one of our rural communities and links the core base of shareholders living in Anchorage, through Juneau and Southeast Alaska, down to Seattle and the rest of the west coast. It also taps into a growing market. People want more options for natural food. Our collective knowledge and wisdom of this marine ecosystem – and the strategic role Sealaska can play in maintaining its health and value – have guided our actions in our recent investments into this industry.

There are numerous benefits that come from eating traditional Alaska Native foods. Wild Alaskan seafood is widely regarded as some of the healthiest in the world. Seafood is especially high in omega-3 fatty acids that can protect from risk of heart disease. Many of the traditional southeast Alaskan greens are a great source of vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a big role in bone growth and has been shown to help maintain immune system health. Additionally, traditional foods are low in sodium. A diet high in sodium increases blood pressure, risk of heart failure and stroke.

In southeast Alaska, traditional foods can be found close by. For others living outside the Pacific Northwest, the nutritious value of traditional foods can be found in imported Alaskan seafood and other regional greens and berries.

Click here (PDF URL) for a list of resources and opportunities to eat traditionally near you.

So how healthy are traditional Southeast Alaska Native foods?

Sockeye Salmon

Sockeye are an excellent source of protein and a heart-friendly food, low in both saturated fat and sodium. Sockeye are also high in vitamin A.

Beach Asparagus

Beach asparagus is similar to both asparagus and green beans and can be harvested from late spring and through summer. It is an excellent source of vitamin A and is heart friendly - fat free and low in sodium.

Black Seaweed

Seaweed is a good source of vitamin A and fiber. It’s also fat free and can be enjoyed as a snack, and once dried, keeps forever.

Herring Eggs

Herring eggs are a great source of protein. An added benefit is that they can be kept in the freezer for up to a year. They can be enjoyed plain, dipped in seal oil or soy sauce or added to a salad or toast.

Hudson Bay Tea

Steep the dried leaves in boiling water of the Hudson Bay Tea plant to make tea. The tea has medicinal properties that are safe in moderation and can soothe an upset stomach, heartburn, colds and arthritis.


Salmonberry can be harvested mid to late summer. Salmonberries are high in fiber and vitamins A and C. The berries can be enjoyed plain or added to anything that calls for berries (syrups, jams, etc.).

Salmon Roe

Salmon roe are sometimes referred to as “salmon caviar” and are a delicacy. They can be boiled with fish, dried, fried or used as a garnish. They can be enjoyed as a snack on crackers or bread. Salmon roe are an excellent source of protein.

Hooligan Grease

Hooligan grease can be used as a dipping sauce or as a preservative for other foods like berries, roots or salmon eggs. Hooligan grease is high in healthy fats and vitamin A.

Seal Oil

Seal oil is a good source of vitamin A and is low in sodium. It can be a dip for dried meats, fish, potatoes and herring eggs. It is also mixed with berries to make Agutak.


Blueberries are a great source of vitamin C and fiber. They are low in fat and sodium. As a benefit for Alaskans, wild Alaskan blueberries are some of the most nutrient rich blueberries in the U.S. because of harsher growing conditions.

Fiddlehead Fern

Fiddlehead ferns are an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. By eating just one cup of fiddlehead fern, a person can obtain their full daily value of vitamin A. They are also a good source of vitamin C. They can be prepared by steaming, boiling, or baking but should always be cooked before eating.

View the spread as it appeared in the Shareholder Newsletter – “From the Ocean to Your Table: Native Food Is Health Food” – written and researched by 2017 intern Sydney Anderson, designed by 2017 intern Adam Gowen.

Credits and Acknowledgments:

2014 Alaska Obesity Facts: Alaska Obesity Prevention and Control Program

Traditional Food Guide For Alaska Native Cancer Survivors

Image of Black Seaweed by Christy Eriksen

Images by Bethany Goodrich, courtesy of Southeast Sustainable Partnership

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.