Dave Jones
Gwichya Gwich'in Name: 
Latin Name: 
Vaccinium vitis-idaea

As food

Cranberries can be eaten raw or added to breads, pies and muffins. Cranberry jam, jelly or syrup can be made by boiling the berries in sugar with water. A pudding or sauce can be made by adding a paste made of flour or custard to boiled berries. Cranberries can also be enjoyed by mixing them with cooked and mashed loche liver. It’suh, a Gwich’in dessert prepared from pounded dry fish, can be made with cranberries, a bit of sugar and fish oil. Cranberries can be picked and kept frozen for later use in the winter. As a medicinal tea, two to three cups of cranberry juice, made by simmering berries for up to 30 minutes can help with colds, digestion and improve appetite. Clara Norman of Tsiigehtchic used to boil the cranberry leaves and drink the juice for coughs. Alfred Semple of Aklavik also recommends this remedy.

Loche liver and Cranberries
When you jiggle or set hooks for loche, you get quite a bit of loche. You pack the whole pile of it up to the tent. Then you take all the liver and eggs out. You put all the liver in a big pan. Then you mash the whole liver up. You take all the skin and veins out of it until it is smooth. Only then you put it on to cook. If there is a lot of liver and eggs, you are cooking it all day or all evening. You cook it slowly, then you take it down. You put all the cooked liver to one side of the pan so all the grease drains out. Put the grease into a pot. You could put cranberries in with the eggs too. Also add sugar to it. Nowadays they put sugar and a little flour into it. You put the cooked liver into a good pan to freeze. In the old days, after they washed the loche stomach bag, they put the liver into it. They would put the grease into a separate bag too. The liver does not spoil and tastes fresh over the winter. You can eat it while it’s frozen.
- Effie Francis (COPE)
Picking Berries in Winter
She was old enough to work so whenever her father and she stayed with a family, she would do a lot of work. She was willing to work; bring wood, melt snow for water. And while she was filling pails with snow, she would see cranberries on the ground and she would dig and eat frozen berries. She would be away a long time. When she came back, they asked her, “What is wrong, why were you away so long?” She said she found berries on the ground and she was digging all over so she could eat the berries.
- Lucy Rat (COPE)

As a dye

Cranberry juice is good for coloring porcupine quills.

Berries and Beads
. . .they had special clothes for the summer. Some of them had different names but I can’t say it in English very good,…these fancied up clothes were worn for summer and men and children wore these. Sometimes if a family had good workers, they had a good life. They made clothes like buckskin jackets with all kinds of different beads on them. The kinds of beads I’m talking about were different from the beads now. They were made out of ivory bone and they coloured the beads with different kinds of berries. These beads were pretty big and you could see on the shoulders of the jacket the bead work, and on the back of the jacket. Sometimes they would make a pair of overalls out of really good white tanned caribou skin. They also beaded the shoes. They also made fancy garters out of good tanned moose skin or caribou skin and out of fancy bead work or great porcupine quills. These were all different colours and they used that for garters either for men or women. These were made for special summer occasions, like sports day.
- Sarah Peters (COPE, a)
Source: Andre, Alestine and Alan Fehr, Gwich'in Ethnobotany, 2nd ed. (2002)

As medicine

The cranberry or mountain cranberry plant and berries are made into a tea and drunk to treat kidney or urinary tract problems. In the winter the frozen berries and plant can be found under the snow in boggy areas where cranberry plants grow.

The leaves of the high-bush cranberry (Viburnum edule) plant are crushed and applied to relieve bee stings and burns.

Source: Andre, Alestine, Nan t'aih nakwits'inahtsìh (The Land Gives Us Strength) (2006)