Birch bark texture.

Ahtna Kanas Winter 2021

Young Shareholder Learns Family Hunting Traditions and Value of Sharing

Elli with her mother Martha.

Twelve-year-old Elli Tansy began hunting when most children are just learning to tie their shoes. She was only five years old when she shot a ptarmigan with a .410 shotgun. By six she was ready to carry her own .22 rifle and got a porcupine. At seven she started hunting for caribou, and right after she turned eight she harvested her first caribou near Eureka. The next year she returned and got her first moose. She’s also successfully hunted for deer, elk, turkey and Alaska’s other unofficial state bird, the mosquito.

Elli learned her hunting skills from her mother Martha. When Elli was a toddler, her mother would put her in a carrier on her back and take her out hunting with her. Through careful observation, Elli learned to skin an animal at age three and by seven she was skinning an entire animal on her own.

When asked what she enjoys most about hunting, Elli replied, “Seeing new places, the traditions of hunting with my family, harvesting food for my community and camping in the woods.” Elli finds great joy in sharing over 80 percent of the game meat she and her family harvest and giving glory to the Lord for successful hunts.

This is Elli’s most recent native craft creation. She made these mittens as a special gift to honor an Alaskan Native Elder this winter. They were made from salmon skins that she naturally tanned with alders and dyed with red beets, deer hide (from her first deer) that she tanned with caribou brains, moose fur cuff from a moose that she and her mom harvested many years ago, and beautiful white and salmon colored seed beads.

Elli says that hunting has taught her many lessons: how to be resourceful; how to understand animals before you hunt them, observing them and learning their habits; traditions of sharing; how to skin, field dress, butcher, and brain tan an animal’s hide; creating clothing and crafts from the skins; tanning salmon skins to use as waterproof material; and how to use a firearm properly and safely.

When Elli isn’t hunting, she enjoys doing traditional arts and crafts, learning from and caring for Elders, picking blueberries, fishing, gardening, playing volleyball, swimming, playing with Legos and playing Minecraft. When Elli grows up, she wants to be an architect for Ahtna and get her pilot’s license so she can be a bush pilot. She also wants to have a homestead where she can raise her family. Elli’s life goal is to be completely self-sufficient in the wilderness. Her mother has taught her how to weld and work on vehicles, which comes in handy when making her own repairs as well as helping others. Elli is homeschooled, which allows flexibility in her schedule for hunting and attending workshops with Elders where she learns life skills and traditional ways.

Elli is the daughter of Roy Tansy Jr. and Martha Tansy. Her paternal grandparents are Roy and the late Irene Tansy and her maternal grandparents are Steve and Leanne Quirk. She is a member of the Naltsiine (Sky Clan) and is also Tlingit, Choctaw and Rosebud Sioux. She was born in Anchorage and currently lives in Chugiak and Wasilla.