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Kim Aspelund
Kim Aspelund

Kim Aspelund was interviewed on November 3, 2022 by Jennifer Andrulli via Zoom. Kim was in Palmer, Alaska and Jennifer was in Soldotna, Alaska. In this interview, Kim talks about harvesting and using local plants for Native traditional foods and medicine, including how she uses specific plants. She shares her experience learning about plants and how important it is for her to continue to share this knowledge. She emphasizes the importance of balance and approaching the gathering and processing of plants with the correct energy and attitude. She also comments on the combination of Western science with traditional Native practices.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2021-02-35

Project: Ethnobotany, Ethnomedicine and Traditional Healing
Date of Interview: Nov 3, 2022
Narrator(s): Kim Aspelund
Interviewer(s): Jennifer "Jen" Andrulli
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
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

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Traditional values, and the importance of learning, sharing, listening, and being healthy

Respect for Elders and culture

Learning to be a plant educator

Hosting plant workshops, and sharing traditional knowledge

Combining traditional knowledge with Western science to understand plants

Being in the middle and maintaining balance

Plants telling you what they are good for, and use of rose and nettles

Harvesting guidelines, the timing of harvest, and planning for processing

The role of energetics in plant collection and processing

The benefits of different plants as food, and the use of spices

Specific plants that she harvests, including fireweed, cottonwood and dandelion

Use of devil's club

Making salves from a variety of plants, and the importance of knowing the plants that you're using

Learning plant knowledge from books and from Elders

Using the cleanest and best ingredients for your products

Use of berries, and the importance of waiting to harvest plants at the right time

Passing on knowledge, and being kind, loving, compassionate, and grateful

Cultural revitalization, and teaching by example

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JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Today is November 3, 2022. I am Jennifer Andrulli, and I’m here with Kim Aspelund. We are on Zoom. Jennifer Andrulli is in Soldotna, Alaska, on the traditional lands of the Dena’ina Athabascan. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today.

As you know, we will be talking about the various uses of plants. This and other recordings regarding ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, and traditional healing 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.

Thank you so much again for taking time to share your knowledge, your traditional knowledge about Alaska plant medicine and traditional healing.

KIM ASPELUND: Well, I appreciate you very much, Jennifer, for inviting me. It is an honor to share some of the knowledge that I’ve learned over the years. And I just wanted to thank you for inviting me to partake in this project that you’re doing to keep our traditional knowledge alive.

My name is Kim Aspelund. My family name is Webber. I was born and raised in Cordova, Alaska. My dad is Tlingit from Katella, and my mom is Alutiiq from Ellamar (a village near Valdez, Alaska). And we also have Eyak blood through our family history.

I was born and raised in Cordova and grew up there. I grew up on -- commercial fishing on our family boat, and taught how to work right off the get-go at eight years old when I was finally old enough to go out on the boat commercial fishing.

So that’s one of the things that I really cherished about my parents is that they had taught us, me and my two brothers, how to work hard and long hours. And, you know, just be a family. All summer long. So it was -- it was a good childhood for me.

As far as my work, I worked at Southcentral Foundation in Anchorage and in the Valley, in Palmer-Wasilla for, I think, thirteen years.

And in my health education department, I taught a series of different health classes. Nutrition, wellness, Elders’ wellness, diabetes prevention. I taught different physical exercise classes, from yoga to Zumba and all in between.

And that’s really been my passion throughout all of my years is living a healthy lifestyle and learning how to stay healthy, and, you know, learn. I’ve been a student my whole life, and I just love to learn new things and share what I know.

You know, my dad was, uh, very preventive. He would maintenance his boat engines and our house, and he kept everything running, you know.

And um, I think I learned a lot just from watching him, and I think that’s a real important quality to have, is to teach by example.

And that’s been one of my, like, mantras or whatever for my whole life, and even raising my two children, is to be a leader and to teach by example, and to keep my body as healthy as I can by choosing good nutrition and exercise.

And it’s just real important to stay on top of your game. And, you know, remember the -- the traditional values that have been in our -- our years of growing, and, you know, to show respect for yourself and to others.

And to share. I mean, we shared our fish and our clams and crab and everything with our family, with friends.

And being patient and listening. I think is one of the most important qualities that I’ve learned over my years is just having the patience to listen to someone that’s wanting to share their story.

And um, one of the classes that I taught was Elders’ wellness, and I learned a lot from my Elders. I appreciate them. I honor our Elders.

I was a Alutiiq dance instructor in Cordova for a few years. And I didn’t know the language. I still don’t know the language, but one of the older high school girls knew the words, and she was raised that way, and I had her assist in the dance group.

But as we were dancing, one of the things I wanted our group to do was to make up our own dance, and have the Alutiiq words taught to us by an Alutiiq Elder and perform it at our annual sobriety celebration. And we did that.

And when we went out there and did that dance honoring your Elders, it brought tears to my dad’s eyes because he grew up in a time where being Alaska Native was not a good thing. And when we did that dance and showed respect to who we are and where we come from, he felt very proud to be an Alaska Native man for the first time in his life.

And when you make impact on people like that by your actions, by doing things and um, it’s powerful.

You know, some other traditional values is to be happy and -- and keep the subsistence lifestyle and eat from your area. With the fish and the crab and the, you know, everything that we had. The trout and everything in Cordova.

It was a very healthy lifestyle growing up, and it gave me a very good base in my whole being. Because of the foods that I ate.

And nutrition is -- is just one of the many spokes on the wheel in my education. And I’ve also been trained in reflexology, polarity, healing touch, acupressure.

I was an apprentice under Dr. Rita Blumenstein for a couple of years, but I’d worked with her for many years. And the knowledge that she shared with me, I -- I wrote down in my special book, my special plant book of -- of the many little things that she told me.

And one of the things she told me when I started a new job at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, I was nervous because the position I was taking in health promotion was filling the shoes of somebody that was very powerful, that had worked there for a long time. And I thought, "Oh, my gosh, how am I ever going to fill those shoes?"

And I was -- I was telling this to Dr. Rita, and she -- she just looked at me, and she said, "Kim, you have to find your own way." And just those little words made it ok for me to be who I am and do what I do and teach the way I teach.

And um, my manager at the time had told me, she said, "Kim, I give you empowerment to be creative." And that -- those two people made such an influence on my life that it, like opened me up to be who I am and who I’ve become.

And I am so thankful for them. And I feel like since then, I’ve been stepping into the person who I -- I know who I’m supposed to be. And that is an educator.

And that’s what Dr. Rita -- Oh, she blessed me to be a traditional plant educator, oh, maybe five years or so ago, maybe longer.

Because she saw something in me that she entrusted the information that she knew that I would pass it on and keep it -- keep all the information going. And I still do.

I still do work in Cordova. I went to Juneau this last summer. I already have plans to go back to Cordova and teach workshops on our Alaskan plants and how to use them for foods and medicines.

And, you know, I worked with Dr. Gary Ferguson and Desiree Jackson for many years on Store Outside Your Door, and also with the Alaskan Plants as Food & Medicine symposium since day one.

And on the fifth year, that was the year that I had -- I was the organizer, the main organizer for the whole function, and someone had told me to invite this Maori Native woman from New Zealand, Dr. Rose Pere, to come talk at our symposium.

She was another very powerful person in my life that made just this impact. And her voice was so strong, she didn’t need a microphone. Her song, when she sang, was so powerful it brought tears to my eyes.

And the words she spoke were just -- just like our traditional values. You know, you -- you work hard, you -- you be kind, you know, you share. All these important things.

And what I’ve learned, too, is that the cultures all around the world are just -- I mean, we’re all pretty much the same. Well, not really, but you know what I mean. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Right.

KIM ASPELUND: In some ways we are. We all share, um, our important things that have been passed down to us. And when I realized that it was my job to keep this knowledge going, I just started thriving in my life.

And now being almost 65 years old, it’s now my job to continue sharing until the day I die, all of this stuff that is important to help other young people teach about the way I was taught.

And that’s my goal this summer, is to -- I’ve chosen a few of the younger people in Cordova to assist with workshops, like a mini plant symposium, and share their knowledge. Because they, too, are influenced and driven to be a plant person or to have our culture, you know, moving forward, and to be proud of it.

And it’s just so important. Um --

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I want to -- KIM ASPELUND: I’ve studied under -- Oh, go ahead, Jennifer.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I wanted to honor that you have found your own way, and that you teach from this place of empowerment, and you teach others to access their own inner knowing and empowerment.

KIM ASPELUND: Yeah, I -- I think I’ve found my way, and it just -- I mean, that’s what life is all about, to do what you love, to enjoy it, to have fun doing it.

And um, I worked with Elders and youth for several years at Southcentral Foundation, and we would do harvesting trips together and learn about the plants.

And one year, the North Carolina State University had caught wind of what we were doing, and they had asked if they could come up and watch and study with us.

And they would teach us how to do the chemistry, how to do anti -- how to do antioxidant assays on the different plants.

And um so, I gathered the youth and the Elders together, and we’d go out in the field, and we’d mash up the plants, and we’d put it in the positive-negative solutions, and then we’d read the antioxidant level of the plants.

And it was educational. It was scientific. It was a blend of our traditional knowledge and science showing us that -- how powerful our plants are.

And after two years of North Carolina studying with us, a few times -- they’d come up a few times each year, and in return, they gifted me a trip to their research facility at North Carolina State University.

And toured us -- toured me and a few other people that worked on this project how scientists work, how they spin the plant in a solution and come up with the chemistry of the plants. And it was highly educational for me.

And when I -- when I left home, I gathered up some of our plants and I brought ’em down, so that we could do -- our group could do studies on 'em right there and then in this upscale scientific lab, you know.

And um, we tested devil’s club in hot water and in cold water to see which method provided the highest antioxidant level. It ended up to be cold. Devil’s club loved the cold water.

And when you think about how devil’s club grows, near streams and in the forest where it’s cooler, they’re understory plants, they -- they like it cool, so it only makes sense that when you study the science of it, that it proves to be higher in cold water.

So you can make a cold infusion tea with devil’s club, you know, to help -- help with inflammation, and, you know, you can drink it internally. You can make devil’s club salve.

There’s all kinds of different things you can do with devil’s club to help your body heal from aches, pains, arthritis, eczema, you know, and um, anyway.

It was -- it was quite an education down there in North Carolina. I felt very honored to be asked and accepted to go and be part of that with our group, um.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Thank you for blending science and traditional ecological knowledge.

KIM ASPELUND: I think it has to work hand in hand. At some levels, you know, um, there are some natural remedies that could help us.

And at some points in health, you need to have Western medicine to help pull you through some of the ailments that have troubled people. And it’s important to have a blend.

And, you know, that makes me think of another part of me that I found is that, um, I’m a middle person. I’m a middle child. I’m always put in the middle of things.

And I felt like, oh, I need to decide if I need to go on this side or that side. And um, one day a lady told me that she said, "Being in the middle isn’t all that bad." She says, "What being in the middle means is that you’re a connector of both ends."

And after that, I felt like oh, I feel good about being in the middle now. You know, there’s no judgment in the middle. I can be neutral.

I liked that part about me that, you know, there’s -- there's certain things that, you know, I feel, oh, sided on or whatnot, but when it comes to people, there’s no judgment. There’s no reason to have that.

You know, we’re all human, we all do -- you know, we all work hard or make mistakes. You know, do good and bad. It’s the yin-yang of life.

And just to have found that being in the middle is balanced, and it’s a bridge, and it’s ok for me to be there.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: It’s brought you many blessings to be in the middle, and I really love how you share about that access to the full spectrum. Being in the middle is such a powerful place. KIM ASPELUND: Mm-hm.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: You spoke earlier about patience and active, deep listening.

And one of the plants that I remembered you working with about ten years ago was rosehips. And you made rosehip fruit leather, and I thought you were the most patient woman I’ve ever met.

KIM ASPELUND: I remember that symposium. It was -- I think it was the year three of our plant symposium, and it was in Girdwood.

And I made leath -- fruit leath -- rosehip fruit leather. I made teas. Like I made a rosehip, or a -- oh, I forget now, maybe a rose cream.

Rose is one of my favorite plants. It -- the rose means love. The rose petals are soft. They’re shaped like a heart.

That tells me that the plant is telling you what it’s good for. It’s good for your heart. It’s good for your skin. And emotionally, you know, who doesn’t want love?

One of my favorite sprays that I make is a rose-infused, uh -- I -- I put my rose petal in water, and I sun-infuse it for a few weeks, and then I put rose petal in witch hazel and let that infuse for a few weeks.

And then I strain them, and I mix them together, and I have this beautiful facial rose spray. And I use it every day.

It’s one of my go-to plants, as well as nettles. Stinging nettles is another one of my favorites. It’s got all the amino acids. It’s a superfood. It’s got -- full of iron and minerals and vitamins, and I drink my nettle tea just about every day.

And I do different methods with my teas, either sun-infused, moon-infused, or um, hot water infusion. And um, they’re so powerful. And tea is one of my go-tos. Just about every single day, I have a cup of tea.

It’s what my body -- you know, what your body is craving is what your body needs. And sometimes I know I need that dark green nettle with all that chlorophyll in it and all those minerals to help build my body up.

Where sometimes if I want to drink a rose tea, a rosehip tea, it’s because I need soothing, and I need to relax, or, you know, calm down. But yeah, rose is -- rose is beautiful.

I wait for my harvesting to begin in April. And that’s one of the things about harvesting guidelines is to harvest when the plants are ready.

So in the spring, my first plant I go to is the cottonwood bud, because they’re ready usually the end of April. And I go out, and I -- I test them.

But if they’re not soft enough where the resin isn’t leaking out of it, where it feels to me like it’s at its full vitality and is going to offer me all the medicine from that cottonwood bud, I wait for it until I know it’s -- it's right. And sometimes it takes a week for me to, you know, keep checking it every day.

And I harvest -- I think the guidelines is to ask permission to harvest the plant, to the plant. Harvest with good intentions.

Know what you’re going to use the plant for so you don’t get too much at once. And if you do, what are you going to do with it? When are you going to process it?

One of the mistakes I’ve made when I first started learning was, um, I felt like the energetic, Energizer Bunny running around, because I could identify all these plants, and um, all’s I wanted to do was just get as much as I could.

But I’d learned that once you harvest, that’s step one. Then you have to process it. That’s step two.

And processing takes a long time. You have to have your patience, and -- and, you know, make sure it’s all done correctly in the right amount of time. And make sure if you’re drying your plants that it’s 110 percent dry.

Like nettles, you want to make sure they’re dry before you ingest them, because they have that stinging quality to 'em that will hurt inside of you if you don’t dry it 110 percent. Or steam it like spinach, then you can eat it.

But taking the time to process your plants, and caring for them, and loving them all along the way of your process.

It’s important to have your energetics inside your mind and your body and your spirit. And same within my house when I make my products, my house has to be clean, it has to be quiet. I have to be with my plant.

And I just feel that my products are infused with so much love, because energetically that is what I want to give somebody if they use my products, is to feel that it will help them, that they’re love it, you know. It would be good.

There’s studies done about energetics. Um, what is that, "The Secret Life of Plants," where the scientist would hook up electrodes to the plants and put a plant in this loud music, people arguing situation, and then they studied the antioxidant level, and it’s very low.

They take that same plant, and they put it in an environment where it has people laughing and loving and soft music, and then they test the antioxidant level, and it’s high. It’s powerful.

So knowing that, and feeling the energetics of, um, you know, going to the plant and harvesting it with love in my heart, I know that the plant is going to give me all the antioxidants, all the vitamins, minerals it has is because of my energetics while I’m harvesting.

And, you know, they’ve done that -- that study with water. You know, they show all kinds of these beautiful crystals being formed. And in the loud room where it’s obnoxious, the crystals don’t do anything. You know, it’s -- I think energetics is very important.

I know in one of my nutrition classes, I did a presentation about food energetics. And, you know, sometimes in our life, we’re airheady and we can’t focus. And we’re so busy that we can’t put two and two together. It’s just like crazy busy or whatever.

Well, what your body is needing to gather itself or to put itself back in balance would be root vegetables. And it only makes sense that if you’re flighty or whatnot or out of focus, then you need to be rooted. So to have those root vegetables like carrots and beets and potatoes.

And then the same opposite if you’re lethargic and you’re heavy, and you’re lazy and have no get-up-and-go, then you need more lighter foods to pick you up so your body will come back into balance by eating more fruits and salads and lighter things.

And I just think that energetics is highly important. And you find in plants that tell you why it’s good. Like I said about how rose petals tells you it’s good for your skin, it’s good for your emotions.

Well, foods kind of do the same thing. Like everybody knows that carrots resemble the eye, so if you’re having eye trouble, dry eyes or whatever, carrots are good.

If you cut a tomato in half and you see the -- the branches, it looks just like your -- and it contains lycopene. And that is known to help with your -- lower your LDLs and raise your HDLs. So foods like that that help your body.

So looking for messages in foods or in plants. It’s almost like a God-given clue to say, this is -- this is what’s good for you.

Um, and uh, you know, like the choices, like when you’re in the -- Say you’re in the grocery store or whatever, and you see all the vegetables. That’s about -- that is the number one aisle I go down every single time I go to a grocery store is to the produce.

And when you look around and you see all those colors, that’s what you want put into your body. All those dark green leafy vegetables, and the yellow, and the orange, and the red.

And um, those are the foods that will help supply your body with the vitamins and minerals that will keep you strong and healthy.

And it’s bad to be in preventative maintenance. That’s what you want to do for yourself is to provide your body with things that will keep you strong and running good.

And herbs and spices are another thing that I think is very important that -- I don’t know -- You know, I love all the rosemary, sage, thyme, turmeric, ginger. Those are pretty much my staple spices that I use consistently.

And like, uh, rosemary’s good for your memory. It helps spike your focus. And turmeric is good for your inflammation in your body. Um, ginger for digestion.

Um, essential oils are super good. Just the scent alone of some things are powerful to help bring your body back into balance.

And, ultimately, I think that’s what needs to happen in our lives is to stay balanced and not overwork, not overeat, not overdo. Not underdo. You know, to find balance and happiness.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Thank you. I wanted to just honor that integrity of presence that you hold when you’re harvesting plants and preparing them. And that’s what you teach.

And it does infuse our plant medicines with this -- the high vibration of prayer and intention. KIM ASPELUND: Yeah.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: What plants -- Oh, and I love how you’re blending the spice plants of the world with Alaska Native plants. So ginger can be added to a bitter Alaska Native brew such as devil’s club. I kind of consider devil’s club and yarrow to be bitter, and I’ll sweeten them with some ginger and mint.

What plants do you harvest every year so you have them on hand for your family? (At this point, the recording has some interference so it becomes a bit garbled)

KIM ASPELUND: Ok, so uh, cottonwood is my first plant. And then, um, oh my gosh. Um, spruce tip. I make syrup. Um, rose petal. Fireweed shoots. Um, and then fireweed petal once, you know, the stage of growth.

You know, I harvest the plant at its stage of growth at the time it’s supposed to be harvested. So, like dandelion capers, um -- so when the -- the flower buds, which are capers, start coming through, you dig way down into the grass to find the tightest, smallest little flower bud. And you -- you harvest those.

And it’s usually before the leaves start getting too big. You know, when the leaves are just starting to grow is when those capers are going to be at their prime.

And I like to make the capers. You put them in apple cider vinegar. You put them in your refrigerator for a few weeks and let them ferment, and they’re just -- they’re delicious.

Um, out of the leafs, I harvest for tea or to put into salads. And then the flowers -- the dandelion flowers for fritters or to sprinkle on the salad. Um, dandelions are known as bitters, so they’re good for digestion.

And on an emotional level, one of the books that Steve Johnson wrote, I forget the title, but it’s -- he talks about the emotion of different plants.

And dandelion is like, resilient. It grows anywhere and everywhere, and people think they’re just a nuisance, but ultimately, what Steve Johnson says is that, you’re deep-rooted, but you shine bright. So you’re reaching up for the sun.

And I -- and I love that about, um, even in your own body, you can be deeply rooted and still shine bright and reach for the sun. And um, I like putting the emotional aspect into our plants, because anything and everything can change your emotion.

And um, it’s just a powerful way to keep balance. I guess that’s my key word today, 'cause I keep saying it, is balance. And uh --

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Kim. I’m having a little feedback on this end. KIM ASPELUND: Ok.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: I’m going to -- (There’s a break in the recording; when they come back, it’s clear again.)

KIM ASPELUND: Hoping that the cars driving by aren’t causing the feedback.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: No, it just went garbly like it’s a satellite issue. We’ve had a big snowstorm here yesterday, and that’s what it sounds like.

KIM ASPELUND: Oh, ok. Um, ok. So let’s see. Am I on record now? JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Yes.

KIM ASPELUND: Ok. So back to the harvesting guidelines. You know when you’re harvesting, so you -- you harvest the roots in the spring or the fall. And then the stems and the leaves as they’re growing.

And then the petals -- (computer chime) -- or the fruit, uh, would be next. Um, I better shut that. (Another computer chime). Let’s see.

Oh, and like devil’s club, I harvest the devil’s club in the spring, and I use the stalk.

And that leads me to a story about power in the plant. And it’s known that the roots are more powerful than the stalk.

And my brother taught me how to harvest the root, because for his body he needed something powerful. And that’s why he chose to harvest the root. Because he had an accident. He broke his neck, and his body was in -- it’s in pain all the time. And so what he did was he’d harvest the root and drink tea.

And my body is small and sensitive to everything, and so, I felt like the root was too powerful for me, so I chose the stalk. And I love the stalk.

I crave the devil’s club tips every May when they start coming out. And um, makes -- I make salves with the stalk, and I dry it for tea.

Um, and I blend some of my salves with different plants like devil’s club and wormwood, and other plants, too, like comfrey, calendula, arnica.

You can create your own recipe, and find which blends work for you. Because I’ve also found that some of my salves will work on somebody super good, and they just want to have every jar that I have, whereas somebody else, it doesn’t -- it doesn’t do anything for ’em.

And um, you know, I don’t know why that happens, but I think certain plants need to resignate (means resonate) with the person also for it to soak in, I guess, or to work.

And the other thing is that there’s cautions with every plant, and even with foods. And in life. I mean, there’s cautions around us everywhere.

And to be smart to know 110 percent what plant you’re harvesting. So that’s one of the first things is to point out is to make sure you’re not harvesting a look-alike plant. And um, know the difference and um, be safe, and um, don’t use too much of one thing. And don’t harvest in one place.

And know that there’s other people harvesting, and there’s animals and birds and bees that need these plants, too. So to -- to honor the whole system and be respectful.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Thank you. I was wondering if you could share a little bit about, how would somebody learn, if they don’t have an Elder in their community or a plant person? What do you recommend?

KIM ASPELUND: There’s a -- there’s several books out there on Alaskan plants. And Janice Schofield is one. She was my very first plant teacher. Um, she’s got several books out.

She lived in Alaska for years and years, and she was pretty much a -- she lived off the land, and she studied the plants, and she has all the realms of knowledge in plants from traditional knowledge to scientific knowledge, and, you know, genus, species.

You know, it’s important to know exactly what plant you’re talking about. When you use the genus species name, so that’s one way to identify if you are harvesting the right plant.

But there’s several books out there. The -- what is it? Oh, I worked with Beverley Gray. She’s from Canada. "The Boreal Herbal." That’s another really good book.

Um, those books provide all the information about, you know, is the plant, oh, um, full of vitamins, minerals, or it has the nutrition breakdown. But it also tells what it is. If it’s, um, if it’s, oh, what am I thinking of, all the -- Oh, what is it I’m thinking of, Jennifer?

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: They are wonderful resources.

KIM ASPELUND: All the actions. That’s what it is. All the actions of the plants. Like, is it a diuretic or is it analgesic? Or is it antioxidant or antifungal or antimicrobial? There’s all these different actions in a plant that is really good to know.

And in the back of, um, Beverley Gray’s book, "The Boreal Herbal," she identifies plants with the actions of the plant. So um, I thought that was highly important. Because you don’t want to overdo one thing if you’re on blood thinners.

And, you know, the other thing is knowing what you’re allergic to. If you’re allergic to, um, some flowers in the sunflower family, or the daisy family, then you don’t want to have dandelion because they’re in that family.

And, you know, it -- it’s just important to take your time and learn, and not be that energetic bunny that goes off and just thinks, you know, harvesting as much as possible.

You know, making all these mistakes was my life’s lesson. I’d overharvest. It’d take too much time, and I didn’t plan for it right. But I -- I learned, and that’s -- that's one of the ways.

And there is a network of people, um, oh, I don’t know. Well, in Anchorage -- I know there’s plenty of plant people in every community, every village. Um, there’s knowledge everywhere.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: We just have to ask the question, and that’s when the magic occurs, is when we ask who’s the local plant person?

KIM ASPELUND: Yes. Where is she/he? What do they know? How can they teach me?

There’s -- that’s another thing I’ve learned is that the knowledge that I’ve learned is probably just -- just the tip of the iceberg.

Because when you start learning about plants or nutrition or anything, there’s all these different, um, perspectives and different ways and different uses. And finding the one that works for you is what’s important.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: From the region that you live in. KIM ASPELUND: Yes.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Often the plants that are most beneficial to us grow close by. KIM ASPELUND: Yes. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Do you -- KIM ASPELUND: Yes, I --

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Do you transplant any plants to your home garden?

KIM ASPELUND: I do not. I just go in all the locations where I know where the plants are. And I know what I want to do with the plants. I know how much to get now.

Cottonwood I get every year, and I probably preserve maybe two to six -- two to six, um, uh, the Mason jars, the larger -- the quart-size jars.

Because the cottonwood bud is also a preservative, so you can add that to all of your different salves or creams, um, or just make a single, you know, with just cottonwood.

Um, there -- you know, there’s just like -- So what kind of oil do you use for salves? You know, you’ve got such an assortment out there. You’ve got the cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil. You got coconut oil. You got almond oil.

You got, um, all these healthy oils, and you don’t want to use anything bad for your body, like canola oil. You don’t want to make your medicines with -- you want to use a wholesome oil.

There’s a variety of different beeswax and shea butters and all these different ingredients you can add into your salves. And getting the cleanest ingredients possible for your plants that you harvest.

Because it takes so much time, and you want to put the best effort you can into making your products. Anyway, uh.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: That’s so important. There’s something like 45 choices for a carrier oil to work with.

And it’s what you said earlier, it’s a personal practice of training and reading and spending time with living teachers and listening to your body. And -- KIM ASPELUND: Yeah. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: -- with practice, time passes.

KIM ASPELUND: Yes. And the -- I’ve made tinctures, and I take -- I have a nettle tincture that I use just every single day.

And you have a choice of your solvent when you make a tincture. You can use the 100 percent vodka, or you can use a vegetable glycerin, or you can use a brandy.

Um, you know, but the -- the higher proof alcohol is going to extract more medicine out of the plant. So that’s what I use.

But I love the flavor of vegetable glycerin. Um, you can make a rosehip vegetable glycerin, or oh, that’s -- I’ve just made those two.

And I also make oxmules (sp?) or shrubs, and that is a blend of equal parts of honey, organic raw honey, and apple cider vinegar. And if you want it a little bit sweeter, you can add a little bit more honey.

But what you do is you mix those together, and then you add whatever plant you want. Like, fireweed or rose petal or, um, oh, nettle. You can choose whatever plant you want to put into that mixture and let that infuse for a few weeks and strain it.

And then what I do with that is put maybe, oh, maybe a quarter cup of the infusion into a cup, and then I add bubbly water, um, sparkling water to the rest of it, mix it up, and it’s like a healthy soda.

It’s very refreshing, and it’s -- it’s not too sweet. You know, it kind of depends on how much honey you add, but that’s been a big hit in the different classes that I taught.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: What are some of the ways that you work with berries that don’t add sugar to the recipe?

KIM ASPELUND: There is a pectin that I use. It’s called -- I believe it’s Palominos. And what they -- what that, um pectin is -- is they have a packet of calcium. And mixing the calcium with the pectin, you use, like, more than half the sugar.

So when I make my jams or jellies with cranberries or blueberries or lowbush cranberries, highbush cranberries, I use that Palominos pectin. So -- and I only add, like two cups of sugar.

And then there’s an option whether you want to add honey or not also. Which honey is, it’s -- you know, it’s full of benefits in just itself, you know, being healthy, and --

Um, let’s see. Yeah, fruit leather. I think I got burnt out on fruit leather there years ago. I don’t make fruit leather too much.

Um, let’s see. Oh, um, nagoonberries. I love nagoonberries. They’re one of my favorites.

There’s a ORAC scale on berries, and it is a measurement of antioxidants. And when you compare our Alaska wild blueberries with a commercial frozen blueberry, well, of course, you know that ours is going to be, like super high.

And one of the reasons that they figured why our antioxidants in our Alaska berries are so high is because that berry is working so hard through the cold temperatures and through the wind and the rains, and they’re trying to survive, so they’ve made themselves strong. So they’re going to be very high in antioxidants.

And then they say, too, like, wait 'til after the first frost before you harvest rosehips or blueberries or your berries. And um, that’s because the chemistry changes inside the plant and becomes higher in antioxidants.

Just like the devil’s club that I talked about earlier. When you test to see if it likes hot or cold, it’s going to prove to be higher with the cold temperatures.

So it’s important to wait. And I know a lot of people these days want to hurry up and just get out there. Well, again, going back to your patience and waiting for the most vitality in your harvesting, because it takes so much time to get out there.

And sometimes you have to drive a long ways, and then you -- you walking, and your -- you know, it just takes a lot of time, so having the best product is important.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: We’re, as a culture, all the Alaska Native cultures and tribes are working on truth, healing, understanding, and transformation. What’s your words of wisdom on using plant medicine to support our healing and understanding?

KIM ASPELUND: Oh, that is like, so important. Because learning from your Elders, you know, the first thing they want to do is usually feed you or give you something to drink.

And, you know, what they do is what I’ve done. And just passing on what I’ve learned as a little girl. And, you know, using those -- those remedies from long ago.

And it’s -- it’s just good. It’s good medicine to know that, um, using those harvesting guidelines, um, in its full potential to give you the best medicine for your food or for your medicines, it’s -- it's just uplifting.

And truly, I think energetics are so important. I mean, I would love to be able to test my own products, you know, with the scientists to say, you know, if I was in a bad mood and had, you know, my stuff going on or whatever, and then, you know, being in my good space, to see what the differences are.

But usually when you’re healing, things that are given to you are usually done in -- with good faith and good intentions, and somebody that’s helping you wants to help you get better.

So even on that level, it’s in -- you know, whether it’s bone broth or fish or whatever, something traditional that reminds you of your, um, ancestral line or whatever.

You know, it can get so deep that, um, you know, because a lot of foods bring back childhood memories. And a lot of places in the -- you know, in the tundra or up in the woods, harvesting, and it just is emotional and, um, bringing your emotions into your foods and medicine.

I mean, why -- why do we say prayers before we eat? To be thankful for what we have. And, you know, it’s -- it's a blessing. And we only want the best for our body. And being thankful and grateful, and, you know, show it to other people.

And just be full of grace and gratitude, love and kindness. Love, compassion, understanding, is what my grandpa used to tell me. He says, that’s all you need, is love, compassion, and understanding.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: That’s a beautiful teaching, and it’s reflected in how I see you in the world. You’ve been such a kind -- and your medicine is so -- It’s delicate, like you. It’s delicate and strong at the same time, because of that prayer behind all that you do.

It’s the energetics. I feel it in your work and in your words, and I want to thank you for all that you do and continue to do for, um, the cultural revitalization and reconnection to the land and our resources and our spirituality and food and medicine.

KIM ASPELUND: Well, I appreciate you for all you do, and um, you know, it’s -- it's an honor to be asked. It’s an honor to carry things forward.

And what’s inspiring for me is that my younger nieces and friends in Cordova, they’re thriving right now in our culture. And even up in Anchorage at, you know, at different places and stuff that where I am physically, there’s so much culture being taught or retaught or carried on.

And whenever you can jump into any kind of traditional knowledge, beading classes or sewing kuspuks or making drums or going fishing, and any of that is -- it’s just so important to, um, just keep sharing and remembering.

Remembering what our ancestors are trying to tell us. You know, because that’s one thing, when we listen is we can hear things, and we don’t even know sometimes.

And I -- I think all along the way of my growing years, things were put in my mind or in front of me. And thinking back, it’s because -- it’s brought me to the place where I am today.

Like these quotes that I’ve heard. "Teach by example." I had that magnet on my refrigerator when my kids were little, and it just reminded me to be the best mother, the best community person or whatever.

And then a friend gave me a rock that said, "Words are the voice of the heart." And that was in high school. And one of my prayers, most -- every time I have to speak or teach, I always ask, "Dear God, please give me all the right words."

And those were seeds that were planted years ago in my path to -- and it stays with me. And the things my grandmother taught, my grandpa, and my mom and my dad, and all my teachers are so influential in my life that I’m so grateful.

I’m so grateful I’m happy and healthy. I know that was the direction I’ve always wanted to go and be in. I wanted to be a bright light for somebody.

I love to share, and I just really appreciate you and your invitation to speak on behalf of your project there at UAF. JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Mm. KIM ASPELUND: So thank you.

JENNIFER ANDRULLI: Thank you so much for blessing us with your time and your words of wisdom. And we’ll end the interview now, and I thank you. Quyana, quyana, quyana. KIM ASPELUND: Ok.