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ANMC serves seal stew, celebrates traditional foods

January 29, 2016

For years, Alaska Native leaders negotiated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for permission to serve traditional foods to those who could really benefit from their healing and comforting effects. ANTHC has long been at the forefront of advocating for the positive aspects of harvesting and eating traditional foods— and permission to serve them to our patients and visitors at the Alaska Native Medical Center.

In 2013, a bill from former Alaska U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, named the “The Traditional Foods Nourishment Act of 2013” passed, making it easier to serve Alaska Native foods in facilities like hospitals, schools, childcare and eldercare facilities.

Under state law, wild game cannot be sold, but can be donated. In recent months, ANTHC has solicited donations of wild game such as seal, moose, caribou, fish, and more to serve to our people at ANMC. The Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission recently donated a harbor seal to ANMC and we were determined to do something special with this gift.

To celebrate this special occasion, ANMC Executive Chef Amy Foote prepared a seal stew and ANMC hosted a “Seal Day” event and invited key stakeholders and The Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission to join us for a brief ceremony and tasting of the seal stew. Raymond Sensmeier, a staunch traditional foods advocate and longtime board member from the Alaska Native Harbor Seal Commission, provided a blessing for the event.

Vivian Echavarria, ANMC Vice President of Professional and Support Services, emceed the event and graciously thanked the people who helped make the donation of seal meat a reality. She commented, “Not only can traditional foods nourish our body, they can nourish our soul.”

After the ceremony, Chef Foote and Cynthia Davis, General Manager of Nana Management Services at ANMC, the contractor who operates the cafeteria, visited the patient floors to give patients a taste of the seal stew. The stew, served with Pilot Bread, was incredibly popular, with many patients asking for seconds. Contentment was evident on the faces of many of our people who ate the stew.

If you are interested in donating traditional foods to ANMC, please contact Cynthia Davis at (907) 729-2682 or If you are interested in helping out with ANMC’s Traditional Native Foods Initiative, but do not have access to traditional foods to donate, you can make a monetary donation to the Healthy Alaska Natives Foundation by visiting

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