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Soapberry Contest

June 9, 2012  (Video)


Two people have taken top prizes in traditional-food contests at Celebration 2012.

Rochelle Revey of Kake won first place in the biennial black seaweed contest. Doris McLean of Whitehorse, Yukon, took first place in the institute’s second soapberry contest.

Other winners of the soapberry contest were Fran Neumann of Whitehorse, Yukon, who took second place, and Evelyn Folbar, of Atlin, British Columbia, who took third place.

Ivan D. Williams of Angoon won second place in the seaweed contest, and Peggy Williams of Angoon won third place.

Soapberry contest judges were Ruth Demmert, Deborah Head and Betty Marvin. Seaweed judges were Pamlea Bogda and Emma Shorty. Names of contestants were kept secret from the judges prior to the judging. Video of the soapberry contest is available online. (Video)

The institute sponsors the contests to introduce young people to traditional Native foods and to highlight the health benefits of traditional Native cuisine.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI president, 463-4844



2010 Soapberry Contest

Soapberry Throwdown from Kathy Dye on Vimeo.

Watch this video of SHI's 2nd biennial soapberry contest held during Celebration 2010. (TRT: 3:48)

(Video Library)



Soapberries are considered a rare treat among Native people and often are served at ceremonial gatherings. The small, red-orange, translucent berries usually are found near glaciers. The bushes vary in growth habit – in Miranda Belarde Lewis froths soapberries by hand at a T’akdeintaan Ku.éex in Hoonah, 1998.Klukwan, the branches fall over and lay on the ground whereas they stand tall in Glacier Bay. Soapberries are tiny, so people harvest the berries by beating the branches with their hand or a stick over a bucket. The berries fall into the bucket with this method, allowing for significant harvests in a short period of time.

To prepare, a small amount of berries is mixed with water and whipped into a froth. Soapberries are very bitter, so people often add sweeteners, such as chopped apples and bananas or they whip the berries with juice from fruit cocktail instead of water. It’s very important to keep the berries free of oil, as it will affect the frothing. People whip soapberries in a very clean bowl made of metal or glass (plastic is not recommended).

Historically, people whipped soapberries with their hands or with a wooden whisk. The whisk was made by shaving sections of wood toward the end of a stick and stopping before the shavings fell off. Today, Native people sometimes still use their hands to froth soapberries served at ceremonies, although it’s now more common to use an electric mixer.

Soapberries may be harvested when they are green or red, and some people prefer to eat them green. The froth of green soapberries appears white, while red soapberries produce a pink color. 

Compiled from information provided by Nora Dauenhauer, Johnny Marks, Anita Lafferty, Helen Sarabia, Margaret Martin and June Pegues.

Soapberry Names

Tlingit Haida Tsimshian Scientific
Xákwl'ee Xaptl'íit Ash

Shepherdia Canadensis