Although we recognize the four seasons in Alaska, it is different by each person, culture, location, and setting. Sometimes people will say that there is spring/summer and fall/winter. This is because our summer season is so short, and winter feels so long. In my location and culture in Alaska, our seasons are defined by the subsistence activities that occur.
In spring, the men prepare for bird and seal hunting. Their season is defined by when the birds start flying and the ice breaking up. Women begin to prepare for the long subsistence activities ahead, butchering seals, plucking birds, gathering bird eggs, and gathering pond greens.
In the summer, the Natives of my region prepare for fishing, which includes gathering wood to smoke the fish, mending nets, repairing boats, and then finally, gathering the fish. Women work to prepare the fish for drying and smoking, while also beginning preparations to gather berries and other foliage from the luscious land. First salmonberries (cloudberries) are picked, then blueberries, blackberries and cranberries. There are other berries in other areas of Alaska, but these four are the berries that my family and I focus on gathering.
Cranberries are ready more towards fall season, and signify the beginning of fall. Birds begin to fly south again and men prepare to hunt them while they are flying. Most communities up and down the Kuskokwim River prepare for moose hunting towards the end of August. Both men and women take part in this important activity.
Then the wait for freeze-up begins. After the river and ground is frozen, caribou hunting takes precedence, and some moose hunting occurs in the winter. Mostly though, people sit and wait for the cycle to begin again. The seasons are very important in Alaska, and of utmost importance to subsistence activities that are at the heart of our culture.