Lily Jackson Subsistence Hunting/Wild Foods Gathering

Our Forests Are Alaska banner green letters with tan/brown backdrop, 5 green buttons

Evie and Lillian Jackson pose for a photo while on the lookout for herring eggs

What Lily does: Yakutat (Yaakwdáat) resident Lillian Jackson (née Sensmeier) is a lifelong wild-foods gatherer. Located on the north end of the Tongass National Forest, Yakutat, Alaska is a small town of roughly 600 people renowned for its fishing and Hubbard Glacier, North America's largest tidewater glacier.

Today, living in rural and remote areas of Alaska can often be difficult due to the cost of living and hard-to-access foods and supplies sold in local stores. Thus, much time and effort are spent harvesting subsistence foods, deepening her connection to the land. “We have to be grateful for it,” said Lily. “We have to cherish all of it. We were raised to be thankful for whatever subsistence food we have.”

“My favorite part of living in southeast Alaska as a child was playing in the forest with friends,” said Lillian, who also goes by Lily. Her father was born and raised in Yakutat and her mother moved to Southeast from the Interior to raise Lily and her siblings in Yakutat. As a child, she often tagged along with her mother and aunt when they picked berries. Now as a parent, Lily watches her son playing outdoors all day and snacking on berry bushes in Yakutat. She and her family also enjoy beachcombing, picnics, movie nights, processing fish, and playing lots of basketball.

Harvesting subsistence foods is engrained in Tlingit culture. The Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska have stewarded the land now known as the Tongass National Forest for thousands of years.

Link to your forests: Throughout the year and depending on the season, Lily depends on the vibrant ecosystems of the Tongass National Forest to harvest everything from salmonberries to devil’s club tips. She also harvests spruce tips for syrups, all kinds of berries, including cranberries and blueberries, and other plants used for traditional medicines.

In the early springtime, she and her family enjoy harvesting freshly sprouted devil’s club buds while they’re soft and before they have leafed out. They take care to not collect too many and leave some to grow or for others who may be harvesting the buds. This practice demonstrates the respect Lily shows for the forest and those who rely on it. She takes care to instill the same respect to her children.

When spring turns into summer, it’s salmon season and time for Lily’s family to put up fish. Younger children help pick out salmon bones so that Lily, her sisters, and her mother can prepare fish in a variety of ways. They might cut fish into strips and brine them, salt the fish filets, or smoke them, depending on what they are putting up—smoked filets, dried fish, or jarred fish.

By engaging in subsistence food harvests and practices, Lily continues to carry out Tlingit traditions and passes them on to future generations, just as these sustainable and labor-intensive methods have provided food and shaped culture from generation to generation for over 10,000 years.


Evie Jackson helps harvest clams on the beach

Evie Jackson helps harvest clams on the beach




Tyas Jackson holds the first spruce tip harvest of the year

Tyas Jackson holds the first devils club tip harvest of the year




Wild Situk Berries

Wild Situk Berries


Did You Know? Lily truly takes a whole-animal, no-waste approach. When processing fish, she keeps the bones and tails of salmon which she turns into food for their dog.


“We have to cherish all of it. We were raised to be thankful for whatever subsistence food we have.”