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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

The Forest

Our story starts in the north-central part of western Canada. This land is flat. There are no mountains, just a few low-lying hills. The land in the northern part of the area is heavily forested.
-Terry Garvin, from Bush Land People

boreal forest The boreal forest of the northwest is only a small part of a much larger wilderness region that extends across the Canadian landscape from the northwest to the southeast; quite literally, the boreal forest runs from coast to coast. This forest, left untouched, is a remarkable cradle of life, supporting numerous plant and animal species. Though the climate of the northern woodland can be harsh and the terrain difficult, the Aboriginal Peoples who call the forest their home survive because they have learned of the great bounty that exists there. The plants and animals of the boreal forest can provide many things: food, clothing, transportation, and shelter.

For those who draw life from the woodlands from season to season, the boreal forest must seem eternal and unending. Though the forest is never without change, the changes are cyclical. Indeed, the Aboriginal Peoples of the boreal forest have lived by traditions passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years.

trapline cabin

By the time Terry Garvin began photographing and recording the traditions of the boreal forest peoples in the 1950s, he was witness to a world that was undergoing yet another change. Riches other than food and furs were drawing new industries to the forested regions of the northwest. In a single generation, a forest landscape that supported a local economy based on remote traplines was giving way to one lined with highways, oil pipelines, and growing, modern towns. The changes have persisted to the present day, and unlike the seasonal changes of the woodlands, there would be no going back. Along with the peoples, plants, and animals that live in it, the boreal forest has been forced to adapt to new challenges to survive.

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            For more on Aboriginal hunters and trappers in Canada’s northwest Boreal forest, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
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