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Jennifer "Jen" Andrulli
Jen Andrulli

Jennifer "Jen" Andrulli was interviewed on October 10, 2022 by Stefanie Burich via Zoom. Jen was in Soldotna, Alaska and Stefanie was in Anchorage, Alaska. In this interview, Jen talks about her work with traditional plant harvesting and use of plants for medicinal purposes. Jen talks about traditional healing and the importance of plants for physical and emotional healing, re-connecting with cultural traditions, and how this knowledge is part of what she calls the "Great Remembering." Jen shares her families traditions of respect for plants and the natural world and some of her knowledge about specific plants and how she processes and uses them.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2021-02-32

Project: Ethnobotany, Ethnomedicine and Traditional Healing
Date of Interview: Oct 10, 2022
Narrator(s): Jennifer "Jen" Andrulli
Interviewer(s): Stefanie Burich
Transcriber: Ruth Sensenig
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Ethnobotany Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Alternate Transcripts
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First memory of using plants

First plant used medicinally, and gaining broader knowledge of plants and plant use

Family history of plant knowledge, and effect of immigration and colonization

The "Great Remembering," and healing

Learning to gather and use plants from her mother, Karen Brooks

Loss of cultural knowledge and traditions

Alaska Native prophets and re-learning to thrive with nature's cycles

Revitalizing plant knowledge, and Yupik creation story

Learning about plants and finding the right teacher

Traditional healers, and integrating traditional medicine with Western medicine

Harvesting protocols

Developing a relationship with a new plant, and communicating with plants and animals

A personal story about plant and human communication

The importance of identifying plants properly and knowing what is safe to use

Use of traditional practices and celebrations for treating disease and healing

Harvesting and use of rhodiola root

Use of rhodiola greens

Harvesting and use of coltsfoot

Use of bluebell flowers, and eating the colors of the rainbow

Learning to use and mix medicinal plants, and using the example of respiratory ailments

Difference between processing of leaves versus roots and bark

Use and processing of dandelion

How plants can support us emotionally

Supporting meaning-making with traditional use of plants

Using plants with intention, and for different purposes

Alaska Native ways of mindfulness

Unification as the hope for the future

Providing jobs in rural Alaska in traditional food harvesting, and honoring Elders

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STEFANIE BURICH: Ok, today is October 10, 2022. I’m Stefanie Burich, and I’m here with Jennifer Andrulli, and we are -- I am calling in from Anchorage, Alaska, and this is a Zoom interview.

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today. As you know, we will be talking about the various uses of plants, and this and other recordings regarding ethnobotany will become part of the oral history collection at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and will be placed online in an ethnobotany Project Jukebox, hosted by the university.

So thank you for sharing your story today. And let us start with traditional introductions. Can you please ground us in where you are from and who your family is and your name and the name of your parents and grandparents and where they are from.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Hello. My name is Jennifer Andrulli. I live and work on the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Athabascan in Southcentral Alaska.

My Yupik name is Ushka (sp?). I’m named after my great-grandmother, Helen Joe of Takotna. And she has ancestral ties to Tununak.

My grandparents are the late Al and Rose Hagen of Manley Hot Springs and the late Robert and Flora Andrulli of Matera, Italy.

My parents are Karen Brooks of Manley Hot Springs and Jim Andrulli of Fairbanks.

STEFANIE BURICH: Thank you. Um, can you talk about your first memory of playing with plants?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I grew up in Manley Hot Springs in the late '70s, and the plants surrounding my house were cranberry bushes, lowbush cranberries, Labrador tea, and we had this beautiful garden.

My mom was an early adopter to agricultural methods and found a mentor. And with the cultivation of gardens, we had these amazing plants that were also new to Alaska.

I had -- ’cause I could eat them. It was wonderful, 'cause my mom showed me, hey, you can eat this and that and this. And so my first plants were berries, chickweed, those wild chamomile buttons, the little pineapple weed, strawberry blite, which was a bright red plant that tasted like strawberries when strawberries weren’t in season. And spruce tips.

And I just remember playing on the rabbit trails around our house and along those trails, all these plants grew. And I would shift between being me and pretending to be a rabbit, pretending to be a bird.

And without my mom’s knowing, I was tasting everything. I’m like, "Hey, if I’m a bird I can eat this and that and the other thing." So I was always experimenting and exploring.

STEFANIE BURICH: And what was the first plant that called out to you to use medicinally? And how did that happen?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Growing up, my mom had a healing center and a wellness center in Fairbanks, Alaska, and she picked very specific plants for medicinal use in her wellness center. And that was Arnica frigida. It grows up in the high country on the way to Manley and in the Chugach Mountains and on the roadside close to Fairbanks and over by Glennallen.

So we’d go on these adventures to pick arnica. And arnica’s an anti-inflammatory when used externally. And that was the first plant.

And then the -- the second plant was cottonwood oil. We’d make cottonwood balm, and that was for patients who had acute and chronic pain. And also for depression. The smell of spring in a bottle was cottonwood oil.

And for myself, uh, learning from my mom and my grandma and teachers in Interior Alaska, we were very lucky to have, um, some herbalists that shared their knowledge and an ethnobotanist. So Deborah McCorkle from Alaska Herbworks was one of my primary herbalism teachers. And Terry Viereck wrote a book called "Alaska Wilderness Medicines," which has been in my life my whole life and helped my family revitalize our plant knowledge.

I didn’t start learning plants outside of my family lineage until I was in my twenties and I moved to Anchorage, Alaska. And I was so far from my traditional harvesting places, I had to find new plants to work with, new berry patches.

And I started a life-long study of plants, new plants, new to me and new to my family. And then in my travels in the United States, in Central and South America, I studied plants with the Indigenous people I sat with, looking for similarities, looking for plants that could help my patients here in Alaska. Plants that could help me.

STEFANIE BURICH: Thank you for sharing. So would you say that your interest in and appreciation for plants, medicinal plants, has started with your family, you know, seeing your mother and other family members using plants medicinally and kind of in your everyday life?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: My family is orphans and immigrants. We’re survivors. My Yupik family survived the Spanish flu pandemic, and we survived -- my Siberian Yupik family survived being stuck on this side of the border. And they could no longer go back and forth. And we survived boarding school internment.

And literally three generations ago, my great-grandmother survived cultural collapse of traditional hunting and gathering in the traditional egalitarian society.

And then on my Italian family, they fled Italy in 1909, and they also had to find new plants. What grew in their gardens didn’t grow in Massachusetts, Nevada, and Alaska. And so, they had to --

On both sides of my great-grandparents and grandparents’ generation, figure out new ways of surviving and thriving in the new landscapes.

My Yupik family was moved inland to Athabascan land: Takotna, Glennallen, Chitina, Manley Hot Springs. These were plants we didn’t know, historically.

And so growing up my mom learned about ten plants that she really, really liked to work with, taught those to me, and then I started learning ten more plants. I call this the "Great Remembering."

Many Alaska Natives have this story, and many American Indians have this story of losing ties to the land after colonization. And this is the "Great Remembering," and it’s tied to the land.

Our healing is tied to the land. And as we’ve -- as a group of Alaska Natives, all tribes have worked together since ANCSA (Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act) towards healing, understanding, truth, and transformation.

One of the ways is through plant medicine, and that’s where my family comes in. That was something we were drawn to be rememberers of and teachers of.

There’s many ways of healing and transformation, and it all starts with truth. To tell the story of our great-grandparents, to hold that, the trauma, then will help us heal, understand, and transform.

So my mom took me out into nature. We gathered very specific plants. And then in that process, she taught me how to navigate the land, gather with others, be aware of our surroundings from many perspectives: safety, bear awareness, keeping all your tools together, being organized and clean, and harvesting. Protocols of prayer and thankfulness and intention. Orientation to the sun and the universe as a way of finding our way in the forest.

And then making the whole experience an adventure, making it fun and celebration with food and music, family and friends.

I think that because she put this effort into creating an experience of gathering and preserving, that was based in celebration and respect. From the patience of harvesting and cleaning to the stirring of the jam pot and the sterilization process. It was whole -- it was filled with richness and depth and deepness.

And transmission of our family stories. All sides of our story in great detail, stirred into the pot of jam, stirred into the oils we made. And this was our truth. And she would say, "Hold this truth, it sets us free."

So as an adult, I just continued this tradition of picking berries and making plant medicine for pain and inflammation. And curiosity and being of service to others.

For a long time, I had no physical complaints other than repetition, pain and inflammation, so when I had friends or patients who had issues, I would look for the plant that would help them in their process. And I had the freedom to do so.

Alaska plant medicine is not legislated and protected with some form of licensing. We’re free to practice our traditional healing Indigenous medicine. And I wove that into my life.

STEFANIE BURICH: Wow, thank you for sharing. That’s very powerful. Um, several questions that came up. You talked about -- I just want to take you back to where you talked about the "Great Remembering." Um, can you talk more about -- about that concept before we go and -- before I ask you more about the specifics about plants?

It sounds to me like you’re, um, referring to something, um, a little more spiritual or less tangible than perhaps just plants, because you talked about, you know, the tradition was cut off to some extent, and then you’re going back to what you call the "Great Remembering." I’m curious to hear more about that.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Ok, thank you for the question. In 1918, there was the Spanish flu pandemic that was very destructive to Alaska Native culture. In some villages, everybody died. In some villages, half the people died. Every village is different. We all have a story about that in our family.

So between contact by the Russians in the mid-1700s to that pandemic, it’s estimated that 75 to 85% of Alaska Natives died in that time period.

And I say, as Alaska Natives we’ve survived the cataclysm. And we are survivors of this great death, it’s called.

And for my family, it was three generations ago when my great-grandmother was orphaned in 1918, and she was raised in a mission school by missionaries. And for my family, that was the great forgetting of our language. We had other culture.

My grand -- my great-grandmother still got her chin tattoos on the inside of her lip instead of the outside. She still spoke Yupik and danced and carried plant medicine. She was an attendant at births and deaths. She helped people transition into life and into the spirit world, as did my grandmother, my mother, and myself. We do this work, holding space at those places of transition, rites of passage.

Every family is going through their own remembering process, and we’re doing this in a variety of ways. Language revitalization, traditional ecological knowledge revitalization, which is way-finding with the stars, working with the animal hides to create moose tan, deer tan in the Native style so we do not forget these very important ways of being that equal thriving in this ecosystem, the Arctic and sub-Arctic. Maintaining our connection to our traditional ecological knowledge.

For our prophets, which we have in Alaska Native cultures, there’s Elders and seers and dreamers who say -- tell the story of the cycles of time, the migrations of people through the changing landscape. And it’s vital to maintain traditions. So when the cycle shifts once more, we will thrive, continue to thrive in this ecosystem.

Our Elders say, watch the plants and animals. They will start to move. We’ll see the cycle change in the migration of plants and animals. Follow the plants and animals. And these stories were passed down.

In my village of Manley Hot Springs, which is Koyukon Athabascan, Caribou Clan, the Elders say, keep a bag by the door. Be ready to go to the hills. Change will come from the East.

And such great advice, because we hear this in our health and safety training. We live here in Southcentral Alaska in an earthquake zone, and we’re told to be prepared. Be prepared. Change will come. Have water. Have fuel. Fire starter.

What we’re doing -- the youth, I’m just honoring the Elders and youth. At some point, I was a youth who picked up this remembering, and I’ll be an Elder one day, but it’s through our will and intention that we are reclaiming and revitalizing our culture, nurturing our resilience, because knowing our connection to the land, knowing the names, this is part of our vitality.

Knowing our plants that contain all the nutrients we need to thrive. This is resilience.

So this is occurring through some of our work with plant knowledge, for without plants, we would not exist. And we are here, each of us all over the world, because our ancestors knew the plants.

One of my favorite Yupik creation stories as a child is that we emerged fully formed human beings, real human beings, out of the seed pod of the beach pea plant.

That we are old and ancient and wise, and within our genes, we are connected to each other and the universe through the eye of awareness. And that’s what I mean when I talk about the "Great Remembering."

STEFANIE BURICH: Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s very powerful and very deep and insightful.

Um, you talk about the process of knowledge and how you remember and how you gained your own knowledge. Can you elaborate about that a little more, just the sources of knowledge, knowledge transmission, how would somebody learn about plants? What are -- you know, you mentioned a few teachers. Can you talk about that more?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I -- I believe that we know in our hearts when we’re called to our gift. And one of the gifts is working with plant medicine. So those who are drawn to work with plants know that it’s a gift.

And with patience and practice and questioning. Spending time with living teachers, reading books, now we can watch videos, have access to so much information. With practice, every year we learn more.

To come to the work with a question. Sometimes that question is a personal challenge or struggle with health and well-being. Sometimes it’s that challenge or struggle of a loved one. Sometimes it’s that quest for knowledge, education, certification, etc. There’s many reasons we come to plant medicine.

Teachers can be difficult to find in the urban setting. Even in rural villages. Some villages have no one who remembers plant medicine or plants beyond berries or some of the fermented plants. Whereas we used to know and name all of the plants in our reality.

And so come to the work with an open heart, with diligent compassion for self, for family, for the story.

Seek the truth of the family story, and have the journey of plant medicine heal the trauma in the family line. Because it’s out in nature, gathering and hunting and being in nature in prayer with intention that great healing occurs.

The healing occurs when we’re on the land with intention and prayer and with thoughtfulness. So bring that on your search.

And teachers will come. When the student is ready, the teachers will come. That’s how it’s always been.

We have amazing programs at the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, and the regional healthcare systems throughout the state of Alaska have traditional healers on staff.

It’s interesting, though, and a challenge for the traditional healers working in the Indian Health Service system is they cannot talk very much about plants due to pharmacological interactions and contraindications.

So look for teachers. There’s opportunity at the University of Alaska. Ethnobotany programs can be very helpful. Looking for Alaska Natives who’ve completed the ethnobotany training are wonderful teachers. And there’s more and more and more of those.

And my favorite pocket manuals are Terry Viereck’s book, "Alaska Wilderness Medicines," because in the back there’s a list of conditions that plants can assist us with. The therapeutic uses of plants.

And that’s how I’ve learned the most. Is when I have a challenging healthcare concern, I look first to the plants, and then weaving my traditional medicine with Western medicine, I create a treatment plan, and I work together with my doctor.

STEFANIE BURICH: Hm, thank you. That’s beautiful. And you were talking about part of the healing processes, kind of following the protocols, being out on the land, gathering, having an orientation.

Can you talk about that a little bit more, just harvesting protocols and kind of the orientation, the -- you know, prayers you talked about?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: We go to the land with intention, and then we say a prayer. Once we get on the land, we say a prayer and make an offering for the support of nature. That we live in reciprocal relationship with the plants, the mycelial network, and the animals on the land.

And we often go to very specific gathering places for very specific plants, but open to the universe to get dust with feathers and minerals and driftwood and beautiful gifts to bring back for our land or even to give to others.

But it all starts with intention and prayer. And we’ll leave an offering. The offering can be as simple as a piece of hair, or can be plant medicine from another place that we’ll leave in exchange with that intention of exchange, or uh, say we picked some plants that were very helpful and beneficial for a patient.

Then that extra offering, that gift of something greater for that exchange, just out of respect for our green brothers and sisters, the plant people.

Every protocol for every family is going to be different, and it’s accurate and perfect just the way it is.

And this respect for the plants, I really am honored to see it woven into non-Native writings about gathering. I’m seeing it in the Bioneers conferences where non-Natives are taking up our respect for nature, the protection of nature, to take only what we need and leave two-thirds for the plant family and for the animals of the area.

So in my family, we take around -- if we’re picking berries, one third of the berries. When we’re -- When we can, we travel further off the trail to allow for Elders to stay closer to the trail.

But, I mean, when I say one-third of the blueberries and the entire hillside is covered in blueberries, and it’s like 25 acres of blueberries, there’s often more blueberries than we can harvest. STEFANIE BURICH: Right. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Or cranberries.

But it really matters when it comes into devil’s club patches or rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), or if you take too many spruce tips off of a tree, it changes the tree’s growth pattern and can delay the tree’s development.

So there’s reasons why we just honor the plant by taking a small amount and moving on. And it’s -- by just taking a small amount, we move through the landscape. We see more of the land. We can find more things other than exactly what we’re looking for.

And we just cover more territory. And I like to do that. I like to get up and move around and not stay in one place harvesting.

STEFANIE BURICH: And if you find a plant that you’re interested in, and that you would like to learn more about, how do you develop a relationship with a new plant?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Well, you can do that in the field. It’s very nice to sit down and communicate with the plant. Open your eye of awareness, which another name for is the third eye, so that place between our two visual eyes, right in the middle of our forehead, this place of inner vision which is connected to our heart. Woven with our heart-mind, I like to call it.

So take breaths -- a series of breaths, drop into presence, awareness, and introduce yourself to the plant. Just like we would introduce ourselves to each other traditionally, introduce yourself to the plant.

I like to say thank you for being of service and helping, and ask for a message and see what the plant has to say.

Now this is an old technique, which we can call animism. Some anthropologists might call it shamanic communication with other than human species, but that is also an Alaska Native gift.

That how is it that we survive in this landscape? Well, with -- it was through our gifts of communication, extrasensory perceptions.

We do not talk about this very much. It’s written about. In some villages, it’s still taboo to speak of our old ways of communicating with each other and with plants and animals.

But the younger generation, which I am in, is saying it’s time to speak of the truth of who we are, and in that way, we can heal, understand, and transform.

We have to look at the truth of our spirituality, and we will never go back to the old ways because we have this new knowledge and understanding. It’s a weaving of the old and the new. It’s what we’ve always done, shared information between tribes, travelers, and changed our culture around the new information.

And it happened so rapidly here in Alaska that we’re just now figuring out how to weave the old and the new, and it takes courageous Elders and youth to do this work.

And um, there was a group of Alaska Native healers in the Anchorage area that started meeting in the '80s, and it was called Denlishla (sp?). And it was made up of Elders and youth from all tribes in Alaska.

And my mom was present. Max Chikaloosian (sp?). Rita Blumenstein. Um, their names come to my heart. And they met together to talk truth.

And this is slowly -- it’s a spiritual renaissance and a spiritual practice and process of remembering that’s also occurring with the approval of Elders of certain families.

And so that is plant communication, is dropping into what anthropologists would call altered states of consciousness. But I really love the language coming out now around peak states and flow states, that that also describes an ability to tap into knowing, knowledge, the universe, to access information.

So that’s a long answer to your question, and I am planting seeds for the future to look towards our traditional ecological knowledge of spirituality as a way of thriving, surviving through times of great transition and transformation, which is where I feel we are now.

STEFANIE BURICH: Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s, yeah, very beautiful and important. And, as you said, we don’t hear often about that level of communication, um, and knowledge transmission, really. Um, and tapping into that extrasensory realm of information.

So yeah, thank you so much for -- for sharing that, and for starting that conversation. Do you have any examples or old stories about human-plant communications?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Well, old, old stories, I do not have those, pre-contact. There are those who carry the stories and honoring our storytellers. What a gift the storytellers in our tribes and clans.

I can, um, speak from personal experience, a story -- I was harvesting plants up in the Talkeetna Mountains, and oh, just beautiful. You can hike the four-wheeler trails up into these meadows, and then veer off the four-wheeler trails, which are very challenging to walk on, and go and explore meadows and creeks.

And I was in -- I was learning about Chocolate Lily, because that’s a coastal plant. It did not grow in Interior Alaska. And I was -- I wanted to see it in full bloom, and what grows next to the chocolate lilies are fields of fireweed that’s nine feet tall, and wild geraniums, valerian, coltsfoot. It’s just prolific up there, right at treeline.

And there was this plant there called False Hellebore, which was poisonous, and I thought, well, it’s such a beautiful plant, I’m just going to gather the leaves for a flower bouquet. And I used gloves, and I cut some leaves, and I made it part of my flowers.

And I go home, and then that night in dreamtime, this beautiful plant, False Hellebore, comes and it weaves its way around me like a net. And it was so interesting, because had I consumed the plant, that net would’ve closed, and I wouldn’t have been able to breathe. And so in dreamtime, it showed me its power.

STEFANIE BURICH: Wow. Wow, thank you for sharing that. That’s amazing.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: We do have some of the most poisonous plants here in Alaska, and as you get to know new plants, it’s very important that identification is accurate.

False Hellebore can look just like twisted stalk, which is an edible green which turns into a berry that’s juicy in the falltime. And then it can also look very similar to other edible plants.

So that’s why having a living teacher is so wonderful, and I was very blessed to learn the plants I did learn from living teachers.

And with good pocket guides, at least three different photo references, and then understanding basic botany, the way the leaves grow on a stem, and the number of petals on the flower, and the shape of the leaf, and maybe even for certain plants, the detail of digging up a root and cutting the root open and looking at how the root expresses. Those are very important keys to identifying a plant.

And then there’s plants that are very easy to identify, and there’s nothing else that looks like them. And so the Terry Viereck book. And then Janice Schofield wrote a very small pocket guide to edible plants of Alaska. And then, you can very easily take those into the field with you and then bring home plant specimens.

It’s really a fun, creative project to press leaves and flowers. You can make a press out of wood and two -- or you want four bolts and then newspaper, and you can press flowers. You can buy them these days, but even that creative act of making your plant press.

And it -- it’s something to do, and it gets us outside and off -- out of the box. Because we have so many things to do. We live in square houses, and we watch a square television, or we’re inside of a game or inside of a phone or a computer. Everything’s square. And um, that limits our perspective, and it limits our peripheral vision. And when our vision is limited, it’s a -- it’s an internal and an external experience.

And I really believe -- I’ve seen it in my lifetime, just how many more people are depressed, anxious, in pain, lack flexibility, because fewer people get outside. We don’t move like we used to. We don’t dance like we used to. We -- even our celebrations have changed and our conversations.

And so, I’m advocating for, you know, having celebrations where we can all -- let’s find what we agree on, and then celebrate. And that’s how we create change, is through this celebration, rather than shutting each other down.

So gather, celebrate, move into the heart, share our plant and animal resources from the land, and talk about what’s really important to us. Share that in talking circles.

Make our plant medicine teas. Have our healing circles. That’s --that's how we’re transforming here in Alaska and in Indian Country itself.

And there’s people on the periphery who might judge us or try to keep us down, but then sickness happens, and disease and disease, and then they need us, and they’re like, "Oh, ok, now we’re ready to hear and receive what you have to share as traditional healers and medicine people."

And we’re patient. We wait until people ask us the question. It doesn’t do much good if we just talk all the time. People have to come with questions.

And that’s how you find your teacher, is you ask questions. Because we’re looking for sincerity in the journey. We’re looking for people who are ready to do the work, who are ready to shift perspectives.

Time is precious. So the way you find a teacher is to ask questions, and be honest and transparent and vulnerable with the people in your life, or who you get referred to, who know.

STEFANIE BURICH: Hm, thank you so much. Thanks for sharing that.

Coming back to some actual plants, like, um, I have some questions about, you know, what kind of plants do you harvest and what time of year do you harvest plants? Um, can we kind of shift the conversation to -- to that?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: My favorite plant of all time is rhodiola. And I harvest rhodiola roots in the fall.

In order to harvest them in the fall, you gotta know where they’re at in the spring and summer, because then they turn red, and they blend in with the rest of the red and orange plants. So you really need to know where the rhodiola patches are before falltime. Otherwise, they’re very hard to find.

Now, rhodiola, I use as what in botany they call a adaptogen, which is a plant that helps us adapt to environmental stress. Whatever that stress is in the environment.

Now, Rhodiola is considered a superfood, and it’s been used in the circumpolar Arctic since the beginning of time. And it’s a beautiful root. It smells like roses. It’s called rockwort in some places, rose root.

And you dig it up, and in the digging up of the plant, it kills the plant. It’s a perennial and would come up again from that root, and that’s why it’s very important to harvest fewer, like, you know, around one-third of a rose root patch, so the plant continues to grow and expand.

And then, as you harvest the roots, and then you wash them while they’ve been freshly harvested. And then I cut them up and dry them in a dehydrator.

It’s very time-consuming to harvest, and you don’t want to under-dehydrate them or they’ll mold, and you’ll ruin your whole batch. And a quart of dried rose root will last me about a year, so I harvest a quart a year.

And then to work with a dried root, you either make a tincture or a decoction. So the roots can last and have medicinal value for about two years.

To make a rosewort, or a rose root tincture, you can soak it in alcohol to extract the medicinal qualities. And then that tincture can last ten years. So I do keep a quart of tincture on hand in case I cannot harvest rhodiola one year, I would still have the adaptigen in my medicine cabinet.

Now there’s been a lot of research on rhodiola. It’s a fascinating plant, and Russia used it as a superfood for their athletes in the Olympics in the '80s, and that’s kind of how it came to be known in the West.

And then more research has been done here. A much research that it actually has commercial value in the state of Alaska as a crop, and it’s being grown on farms throughout Alaska as an export for the nutraceutical industry.

Rhodiola greens are edible and delicious and can be harvested in the early spring, and then just used as a pot herb. So however, you could steam it, sauté it, put it in soups.

Another way to preserve it is to ferment it using modern fermenting techniques. You can add it to sauerkraut, kimchis, to just add depth of flavor.

I like to combine things. Like now, it’s 2022, and sure, I’ll make a ferment on pure, wild ferments, but I also like to add in these domesticated crops of cabbage and carrots and blending the ancient and modern.

So that’s rhodiola. Rhodiola is green when it’s most choice as an edible, and then it puts out -- like the top of the plant turns red into a flower. And then it’s not as choice, but still can be eaten.

I, you know, mostly the root’s used medicinally, but I imagine that the greens are -- have medicinal properties. There’s just more medicinal properties in the roots, so I just go for the roots.

And then I really love coltsfoot, because it’s such a unique plant. And it took me a long time to be in the mountains when the coltsfoot flowers are blooming, which happens like a foot from where the leaf comes out of the ground.

And so the leaf and the flower are connected by a rhizome, and the flowers are, to me, so exciting to find because I don’t live in the mountains or by a coltsfoot patch, so it’s always just super exciting to find them in the spring.

And you can gather those and cook them as you would cook a grain, bread them, flour them, and put them in sauté.

Um, I tend to know plants for my constitution, so the plants that I always harvest are the ones I personally need. So I do need coltsfoot, because I have a tendency to get colds and cough, then have a respiratory component.

So I’ll harvest for my respiratory system, coltsfoot and bluebells, what we call bluebells in Alaska, but they’re also called chiming bells or lungwort because they support the lungs.

I love bluebell flowers. They’re very time-consuming to pick, but they’re sweet, and they’re a color -- this bluish purple color that are -- you can’t even buy that as a vegetable at the store.

I love to eat things in the whole rainbow of colors, and so that’s where my love of edible flowers comes in.

One of my teachers, Dr. Jane Houston, um, she said, "When we eat the color of the rainbow, that expands our inner and outer vision."

So that was one of my research projects, was I wanted to know all the edible flowers in Alaska. And I did. And I put it on a list, and I went in search of all of them.

STEFANIE BURICH: Wow. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Yeah, that was fun. STEFANIE BURICH: That’s -- that's amazing. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: That was a fun one.

STEFANIE BURICH: Can I get a copy of that list? JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Yeah. I’ll send it to you.

STEFANIE BURICH: Wow, wonderful. Do you have any, any, um, insights on -- would you mind sharing those, on mixing plants?

I know different herbs have different medicinal properties, and is there -- does that change when you mix them?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Oh, absolutely. Yes. Well, when you’re first learning plant medicine, you make a simple, which is one plant.

And you work with simples to understand the plant, how it feels in your own body and experience.

Then once you understand the plants, you can start making combinations. And so for the combination I just spoke of, which was coltsfoot leaves and chiming bells, they both impact the respiratory system.

Now, I wouldn’t use them both at the same time. I would use coltsfoot leaves first, for three days. Depending on my other symptoms, I would use other plants.

I would use one respiratory plant at a time. And then after three days tracking my symptoms, my improvement, then I would switch respiratory plants, and I would work with chiming bells, lungwort, for three days.

And that was just how I was taught, to change the plants that I’m working with every three to four days. Helping my body immune system respond to the virus or bacteria that I’m fighting.

And there’s many other perspectives of combining plants. And some would combine multiple respiratory plants. I just make other combinations.

So I would then -- on the days that I use coltsfoot, I would maybe -- if I had a fever, I would make a Yarrow tea, as well. I would have a rhodiola decoction.

So these plant medicines, you wouldn’t make them all at the same time, because the roots or the barks would be a longer extraction. That would take twelve to twenty-four hours to make a medicine out of a root or a bark.

And then the leaves only take an hour to twelve hours. So I might have multiple jars brewing different things at the same time.

STEFANIE BURICH: That’s -- JENNIFER ANDRULLI: And -- STEFANIE BURICH: Yeah, no, that’s -- sorry, go.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Yeah. Oh, the other reason why tinctures are very nice to have on hand, tinctures of root or bark plants like devil’s club bark tincture, even spruce tip tincture, so the most chemical-dense extraction possible is ready as -- when needed.

Because it’s really helpful that as soon as you feel your immune system response to a pathogen that you start taking plant medicine. It can speed the healing and recovery process.

STEFANIE BURICH: So you’re processing plants -- or leaves differently than barks and roots with a different duration of -- ? JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Absolutely.

STEFANIE BURICH: Can you talk about that?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Oh, sorry. I -- go ahead and ask that question again.

STEFANIE BURICH: Yeah, I was just curious about, you mentioned that you’re processing leaves and barks and roots differently, with a different duration of time, that there’s -- you know, you let them sit and -- Can you talk about that?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Right. Right. So, you can -- you can make an infusion out of leaves and flowers, and an infusion only takes an hour to twelve hours to pull out the medicinal properties of the plant or flower.

To pull out the plant qualities of a root or bark, it has to be boiled or you know, slash (/) simmered or soaked in hot water or even cold water for twelve to twenty-four hours. And then, to pull out the medicinal qualities.

And those vary from plants, but you cannot extract all the medicine out of a root in just soaking it in hot water. You’re wasting the root. I mean, it’s not a bad thing. If I really needed it, I guess, I would do it in an hour, but it’s most efficient to simmer it for a longer period of time to draw out all the nutrients.

And that’s why, yeah -- So the different things are called teas, infusion. A tea -- we can go to the store, and we can buy teas.

Well, you can take that tea bag from the store and soak it for twelve hours, and now you have an infusion.

Or if you buy dandelion root at the store, you can simmer it for an hour, and then you have a decoction.

But it’s the same plant, you’re just treating it differently. You could take the dandelion root tea bag, and you could take it out of the bag and soak it in alcohol or apple cider vinegar and make a tincture.

Dandelion, I love dandelion. And it came to Alaska with immigrants bringing their crops from the Old World, these domesticated varieties of plants.

Dandelion grows in the gardens, and then that spread into the landscape, right. It’s in our national parks. At the end of every road in Alaska.

Well, dandelion’s very special, because it’s edible, the whole plant. The flower is an edible. You can bread it and fry it. The leaves, the young leaves, are a great salad green or a spinach alternative.

The root is so important. It helps us support and nurture the liver.

Well, liver energetically -- when we look at the energetics of our body, we talk about the liver being the organ that helps us process anger. And dandelion is the herb that supports the liver.

And this is some of the, you know, the energetics here in Alaska is, you know, processing the anger. There’s trauma and anger, and it’s wrapped up together, and dandelion is here to help us navigate speaking truth to the anger and healing, understanding and transforming it.

So we can work together to go forward. We cannot do this work alone as human beings. We never have. And so, the future holds us working together in unification rather than separation.

So that’s one of the ways plants help us work on our emotional body. People come to the plants because of a physical ailment, and part of the healing is looking at the emotional, spiritual, and mental aspects of that ailment.

And part of that’s personal, and part of it is collective. It’s the family and then it’s the society that we’re within.

STEFANIE BURICH: I find that -- that connection very interesting, and I’m grateful that you brought it up.

Um, I don’t think we hear much about the kind of emotional healing power of certain plants and herbs. Mostly we hear about the physical ailments that certain herbs can -- or plants can address or work on. Can you talk about more about that?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: There’s many ways to -- to look at how plants can support us emotionally. And so, I’ll bring up the colors of flowers. The edible flowers all come in a whole rainbow of colors, and so then, we could then look at emotions.

So if our heart is ailing us, like we have heartache, or our heart is sick, which we could call high blood pressure or heart disease, we would look at flowers like the rose, which is connected to love.

That beautiful color pink, but also like a pink-red. So the rose is solidly connected to love and the heart.

The color yellow is related to our urinary system, right. Symbolically, the color yellow -- when I was growing up, you know, it was don’t eat yellow snow as the joke. We would sing something on the playground.

But when we’re looking at plant medicine, it turns out that goldenrod, which is a yellow flower, is good for the kidneys.

The kidneys are emotionally connected to annoyance, the emotion of annoyance. So that’s using colors and flowers.

Another thing that comes to my mind around emotions is, you know, awareness of the emotion that we’re having, and the meaning we’re giving the experience that an outcome of which is the emotion. It requires awareness.

So on the journey, most people don’t do this practice. It occurs once you’re in the process of healing and transformation, is to cultivate awareness of where you’re at emotionally.

What triggers an emotion? Follow that emotion back to the first time it happened, and then all the stories of why and how it expressed, and how did it serve us that this happened for us? We get to a point in our healing process where it’s safe and compassionate to say, this happened for me to grow. It was challenging, it was traumatic, but it happened for me.

And part of this meaning-making shifts the reaction to the trigger. And then we can use plant medicine as a substance, as part of the healing process.

So almost it -- it almost doesn’t matter which plant medicine you use, if you’re using it with intention to support the meaning-making and the process of healing and transformation, then that itself is what you designate the plant to help you with.

Modern medicine might call that a placebo, but we call this plant intelligence and reciprocal relationship with -- with the plants. That we make an agreement that I’m going to drink, you know, this rose and nettle tea through my process of healing and understanding.

So we can pick a plant that is helpful for underlying physical conditions. So maybe I’m starting this journey, and I have some stomach concerns. That’s the physical piece that brought me to the traditional healer. And so, you would get fireweed tea, which is helpful for the stomach.

But then also the homework of looking at your life story. And there’s many, many other ways to do it. That’s how I’ve been doing the work most recently, is in meaning-making. Shifting perspectives.

Another way is through, you know, looking at what I’m intolerant to in my life. If I’m averse and turning away from something all the time, why? What is that?

Can I sit in that discomfort just a little longer in order to have more control over that turning away from? So sit in the cold just a little longer and be cold. Sit in the heat just a little longer and start to train my senses.

STEFANIE BURICH: Yeah, to create -- to create some more space between stimulus and response, and to allow us to kind of sit in that space? Yeah. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Yeah.

STEFANIE BURICH: It’s beautiful. I’m intrigued by what you said about plants and the intention that we use them with or that we work with them. And how plants can have different effects on -- you know, depending on the intention that we use them with or the agreement that we make with them.

I find that very intriguing. It takes us, I think, from the biochemical level of analyzing medicinal and -- you know, properties of plants to, you know, just a different -- a different level of working with them. Can you say something more about that?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Right. I feel that these -- the old stories that I have been shared, that there’s traditional healers that will treat all issues with one plant. So that’s an old story I was told.

And I thought about that, and I thought, well how is that possible, that one plant could treat all things? And it’s that relationship that the human being has with the plant, and the agreement that they have with the plant to heal all things.

And that story was told to me very long ago. And so I’ve explored it. And the exploration, it’s an inner exploration. There’s very little to do in the book, you know, in reading. We’re not going to read about this. It’s a personal experience. You hear the story, and then you practice and experiment and see.

And uh, this concept of mindfulness in the West is a weaving and blending of Eastern medicine, Eastern traditional ecological knowledge of Buddhism and Daoism for Western minds.

And then when I think about mindfulness for Alaska Natives, at least for Yupik people, my ancestors, we were taught that thoughts are as powerful as words. Thoughts make the way clear in space for our thoughts to be made manifest in this reality.

So, basically, it was -- it was a warning and a teaching quite young to be aware of our thoughts, to be mindful of what we’re thinking, because other people can feel it, sense it, see it, depending on their gifts.

And that it can impact other people and other than human beings. In the sense of how, well, an example of that is our thoughts could mean success for the whalers whaling, safety, and also in communicating with the whale and landing a whale. It could also mean negative thoughts could bring in a bear to camp.

And so, we were taught to be very mindful of our intentions, thoughts and intentions. And to clear up the thoughts. There are practice and protocol to clear up the thoughts, to clear up the energy that was static in family and community.

And ways that we do that is through, you know, music, dance, ceremony. Men’s house work, and then work in the women’s house, what the different genders would do in their own -- in our own sacred space to clear out the static in our hearts and minds.

And so, that weaving that plants back into this, you can see how you building -- in the building of a relationship with the plant that a healer could have the relationship with the plant, it would treat all things.

Or depending on the quality of your thought and intention as a human being, could take one plant and intend for it to treat one thing, and then weave in music and dance and embodiment and flexibility and time on the land. And the drinking of the tea and using the plant internally and externally with intention and with that cultivated presence of intention and thought for it to be support in the process.

In my family’s way of holding space for healing and transformation, it’s just not one thing that -- it’s a blending and a combining of modalities. It’s plant medicine. It’s body work. Self-care. Movement practices. Music. Creativity. That’s how that happens.

STEFANIE BURICH: Wow, thank you. There’s so many -- so many ways of using plants and -- and other tools, I guess that are available to support our healing. That’s very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing that.

Um, I want to just, you know, to finish up here, I want to go back to one thing you said at the beginning of the interview that kind of stood out for me, among many things.

Um, you said that, um, we’re here because our Elders, our families, knew plants, and we are survivors because of that. Your people survived because of their knowledge of plants. Um, kind of turning that around to the future, what are your -- what is your hope for the people, and your children’s children, children?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I spoke a little bit about that, and that’s this unification. Working together towards a common goal is my hope for the future.

Where I see us right now is in a time of great transition, where there’s more duality right in our face than ever before of separation, and the good and the bad, and the red and the blue, and the rich and the poor, and the this and the that. And we can’t escape it.

And everybody has something to say about it, and -- which means that fewer people are saying anything about anything, because they feel they’re to be attacked for sharing their perspective.

And so, I see us working together towards a common goal. I don’t know what that’ll be, but we’ve got some major challenges that are facing us at a time of great transition, and those --

Concerning plant medicine particularly, plants, you know, are our helpers, right. We would not be here without plants. We can’t just eat protein. We need complex carbohydrates to thrive as human beings.

And we’re looking at some changes in agriculture methods that would be very beneficial for providing nutrient-dense vegetables to market versus depleted vegetables. I would like to see trade routes.

Some of the concerns in rural Alaska is there are no jobs. Food is very expensive, and I’d really love to see Native corporations providing jobs in harvesting traditionally harvested food, which is called like non-forest products, forest foods, because these are nutrient-dense.

It would create jobs. It would create that revitalization of traditional ecological knowledge. It’s orientation by stars. Making the old boats.

And that is very hopeful for the youth to have purpose other than playing video games or watching television or videos of cultures far, far away that we may never see, that we definitely don’t look like, and we may never participate in.

Um, so to create opportunity on the land, in the villages in rural Alaska that provides food for the -- and summer jobs for the young ones, it would just purpose in life. How fun.

I got to do that growing up. My parents took me out onto the land. I would spend weeks at a time on the land, and that was one of the things that made me a solid human being.

And then there’s also, you know, this part of me that says, even this is divine order, and we’re expressing exactly as we need to express in order to grow, and that we don’t have to do anything. Which we’re doing enough, and we’re making such remarkable change and transformation.

I’m very proud of our Elders for their courage, and for the youth and their courage to do exactly what they’re doing.

STEFANIE BURICH: Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that vision. And I hope that recordings like these will be -- will be helpful for people to, yeah, keep -- keep revitalizing, keep remembering.

So yeah, thank you so much for your -- for your time, for sharing -- sharing your knowledge, your insights. Is there anything else that you would like to share before we close?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I’m thankful for the funders of this project for seeing the long story, the deep story, of capturing words of this time, honoring the Elders whose words we’ve written and listened to over the last 50 years.

That they inspired us, and I know that everybody working on this project is part of the inspiration for future generations, so thank you as well for taking time.

STEFANIE BURICH: Of course. Thank you so much.