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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Glossary

Aboriginal: Being the first of its kind in a region; a first person. In Canada, Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 defined Aboriginal Peoples to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

antler: The deciduous horn of a member of the deer family, i.e. moose, caribou, elk, or deer. Often used by Aboriginal Peoples in the production of art, crafts, and tools.

babiche: Rawhide (usually moosehide) soaked in resin (usually the sap of a spruce tree); it is commonly used as webbing in snowshoes.

backpack: A container, usually of fabric construction, carried on a person’s back and used to carry supplies.

bait: Food, or an object that gives off the appearance, sound, or scent of food used to lure an animal, bird, or fish into a trap.

bannock: A heavy, flat, round bread made of flour, usually unleavened; a traditional recipe includes ground plant root and fish eggs.

barge: A flat-bottomed boat capable of carrying freight across rivers and lakes, and pushed or pulled by a motor boat. Sizes range from a load capacity of two tonnes to six-hundred tonnes or more.

barged: Goods and supplies carried or transported across a river or lake by a barge either pushed or pulled by a power boat.

bark: To remove the bark of a tree after it has been cut down; to bark a log or pole.

Barren Lands: Lands north of the boreal forest; a tract of land with inferior tree growth and little vegetation but rich in food for caribou and other mammals. It is a vast nesting habitat for many migrating birds.

birchbark: The protective cover of a birch tree. Used traditionally to cover a canoe frame and used extensively in the production of crafts.

birchbark imprint: The creative design made by tooth imprints bitten in a strip of birchbark; usually the practice of First Nations women.

black ice: Ice floe that is saturated with melt run-off; it may sink without warning.

boreal: Of, related to, or located in northern regions.

boreal forest: A large area of wooded land; a dense growth of trees and underbrush, relating to northern and mountainous parts the northern hemisphere.

boughs: The fine branches of a coniferous tree, often refers to the small branches of a spruce tree, as in spruce boughs.

bow: The front end of a canoe or boat.

break-up: A time or season of year, especially early spring; the movement and breaking of ice across lakes and rivers in the spring as caused by melting.

break trail: To pack snow, usually with snowshoes, to allow access for walking or for dog team travel.

brush: The low growth of shrubs and grass; often mixed with tree growth; a forest ground cover.

bush person: A person occupying forest land; living in part or in total from the land.

cabin: A small house located along a trapline used by trappers as a temporary residence or overnight shelter, usually built of logs and consisting of a single room.

cache: A place for the storage of food and supplies, often located at strategic locations along the trapline and hunting route.

camp: A residence, home, and property in the northern bushland.

candlestick: Lake or river ice which, in the spring, is near breakup condition. Not safe to travel over.

carriole, carryall: A toboggan about four metres (thirteen feet) long and half a metre (one and a half feet) wide, fitted with a fabric (moosehide) sidewall cover; used to carry people  and supplies; pulled by dogs, snowmobiles, or all-terrain wheeled vehicles.

castors: Large glands located under the belly skin of both male and female beavers, by which the scent of the beaver is carried and dispersed. Castors are a source of traditional medicine and a market commodity for the contemporary commercial perfume industry.

castorium: Scent from the castor of a beaver; used in a variety of traditional medicines and to produce commercial perfume.

caulk: The act of filling seams or joints of boats and log buildings.

caulking compound: Material used to fill and seal the seams of boats and houses.

channel: A river or lake pathway for boats, especially relevant where there is a narrow channel meandering under the surface of a large body of shallow water.

chink: (see caulking) To fill the gap between the logs of a house; to fill the gaps between boards on a Chipewyan skiff to keep out water or air.

clearing: An area of land in a forest where trees are cleared out; similar area, cleared of trees, on the shoreline of a stream, river, or lake.

conical tent: (see tepee) A shape resembling a cone; the shape of an Aboriginal tepee.

crackling: Also known as Indian Popcorn, a sweet and crunchy snack made when the stomach cape of a moose is rendered to remove fat and then dried.

culture: Customary beliefs, values, and material traits of a racial or social group; the Aboriginal lifestyle.

deadwood: Fallen trees, often used a refuge by animals and birds; source of dry firewood.

dog-musher: A person who controls and drives a dog team while it pulls a toboggan.

down: The next-to-the-body layer of feathers of a goose or duck; used for stuffing pillows, quilts and clothing, and as lining in bird nests. The eider duck (female) is a preferred source of down.

downstream: In the direction of the flow of a river.

downwind: In the direction towards which the wind is blowing; to be downwind from the location of a hunted animal.

dressing an animal: Preparing the carcass of a hunted animal, bird, or fish; removing hide (skin), some bones, and entrails.

dry cure: A process of curing food, particularly meat and fish, in the open air over a trickle of smoke and heat from a wood fire.

dugout: (as in dugout canoe) This is a hollowed-out log fashioned to be a water transportation vehicle. A canoe is as short as two metres (six and a half feet) and as long as the tree size will allow, usually ten metres (thirty-three feet) or more.

eddy: A place along a riverbank where the flowing water reverses its direction creating a circular flow of water; often still water bordered by a shore and a flowing stream; preferred place for travellers to rest or to place a permanent dock.

 

fishstick: About ten kilograms (twenty-two pounds) worth of fish hung head-down on a willow branch which has been pierced through the tail of each fish; a stick across ten or twelve fish have been hung. Often used as dog-food.

flesher: A sharp-edged flesh and hair scraper made from the leg bone (below the knee) of an animal, often the moose. Small fleshers are made from the bones of smaller animals.

floodplain: The highest level at which water will rise when rivers or lakes are flooded beyond normal levels.

freeboard: The amount of space between water and the upper edge (gunwale) of the side of a canoe or boat.

freeze-up: The time of year when rivers and lakes freeze over; the onset of the winter season.

fungus: A parasitic growth on trees, shrubs, and soil, including moulds, rust, mildew, smut, mushrooms, and bacteria.

green log: A newly fallen or harvested live tree, still moist with resin and water.

grouse: An upland bird; year-round resident of the boreal forest.

gullet: Throat or esophagus of a grouse.

gum: The sap of trees.

gunnel (gunwale): The upper edge of the side of a boat or canoe.

habitat: Natural environment of an animal or plant.

heel-dog (heeler): The dog which is hitched closest to the toboggan in a team of dogs hitched single file or in tandem. Usually the largest and strongest dog in the team.

hew: To chop or cut and shape with an axe or draw knife to shape a log for building construction.

hitch: A number of dogs hitched to a toboggan (also known as a carryall or sled) in single file, tandem, or fanned out.

home base: The main residence of a trapper family.

Indian: A person registered or entitled to be registered under the Indian Act of Canada.

Indian hardwood: The larch (tamarack) tree, commonly used to construct snowshoe frames, and toboggan or sled runners; hard wood.

Indigenous: see Native.

jigger: An instrument used to feed a rope from a hole in the ice to another hole in the ice (on a river or lake). Once the rope is fed through from one hole to another, it is attached to a fish net and the net is pulled under the ice where it is set to catch fish. A jigger is two metres (six and a half feet) long and a quarter of a metre (nine inches) wide, and is affixed with a hoop and rope to propel it under the ice.

kinnickinnick: A type of tobacco, given as an offering or used in spiritual rituals. Often the dried leaf of a bearberry plant or the bark of a red willow.

lapstick: A boat construction style. The bow and stern of a Chipewyan skiff may have side boards and top boards overlapping the bottom boards.

lead-dog: The dog at the head of a dog-team hitch; fast, sensitive to the moves of the team; alert to the commands of the dog musher; a highly trained member of the dog team.

lichen: A plant organism, many-coloured, that grows on rocks and tree trunks. It is a food supply for some mammals and is often used to decorate traditional arts and crafts.

lick: ( salt lick, animal lick) A natural outcrop of minerals (salt in particular) consumed by animals as a nutritional supplement; area in which one is located.

line cabin: A temporary residence used by a trapper, located on a trapline and usually within one working-day’s travel from home base or another line cabin.

lobstick: A landmark used by a traveler, often consisting of a tall coniferous tree with only the topmost branches, leaves, and cones remaining; easily seen from land trails and water routes.

log-built: Home or cabin built with logs.

long-hair: A designation given to fur-bearing mammals with a coat of long hair.

mainland: The main part of land, excluding islands.

Métis: People of mixed European and Aboriginal ancestry; unique to the cultural map of Canada in that they emerged only after the arrival of the European and the subsequent intermarriage of English or French Canadian men and First Nations women. Children born of these marriages were called “Métis,” which is a French term for “mixed blood.”  The Métis history and culture draws on diverse ancestral origins, including Scottish, Irish, French, Ojibway, and Cree. 

midwife: A person (typically a woman) who assists another woman in childbirth.

moccasin: Ankle-high footwear fashioned out of tanned hide for soles and hide or other fabric for ankle support.

moose-call: A cone-shaped megaphone made of birchbark, used by a hunter to imitate moose communication, usually imitating the mating messages of both male and female .

moss: As in bog, swamp, peat, peat moss: a clump of plants having a small, leafy, often tufted stem.

mukluk: Knee-high footwear fashioned out of tanned hide for soles, and hide, fur, or other fabric for the section covering the ankle up to the knee.

muskeg: A marshy deposit of partly decayed vegetable matter, characteristic of northern regions.

Native: Belonging to a particular place by birth; belonging to or associated with one by birth. A reference to persons of Canadian Aboriginal ancestry, including people who are defined as Indian, Inuit, and Métis. Synonyms: Indigenous, Aboriginal.

Native Person: A member of a People who belong to or are descended from the original inhabitants of a region; in Canada, the term includes First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Persons.

ochre: Native earth; hydrated peroxide of iron, coloured and used to decorate artwork.

off-season: A reference to times other than the trapping and hunting season; the post-breakup and pre-breakup times.

outboard: A motor which drives a propeller that pushes a boat over the surface of a lake or river, and which is attached to the outside of the stern of a boat.

outside: Somewhere much further south of a northern residence.

overland: A travel route on land, as distinguished from travel across a water route.

pelt: Animal hide with fur attached.

pemmican: A mixture of dried lean meat (pounded into a fine powder) and rendered fat, along with the addition of berries for flavouring. Pemmican is high in protein and energy and was a staple of many Aboriginal and early fur-trader’s diets as it could be stored for extended periods of time. 

pitch: A naturally pliable compound (often ochre or tar), which seals cracks in wood, especially wood-built watercraft.

pole: A tree cut and trimmed and used as a tent pole, a pole of fencing or building enclosures; a tepee pole.

portage: An overland route across which boats, canoes, and provisions are carried between two bodies of water where passage may be difficult.

portaging: Refers to the act of carrying a boat/canoe and supplies over land to avoid obstacles or areas of rough passage in the water. During the Fur Trade Era until the beginning of the 20th century, Aboriginals, explorers, fur traders, and voyageurs all traveled via water routes across North America. When there was a land break between two different water systems, these travelers would have to portage or carry their cargo and boat or canoe by foot across land to the next waterway. On a long portage voyageurs would often use packhorses to carry heavier cargo. It often took several trips to unload and carry the vessel and its content from one waterway to another. Some areas became known portage routes and gave rise to permanent settlements.

poultice: A compress applied to a flesh wound; a mixture of balsa sap and spruce needles boiled to reduce moisture and applied to a wound.

predator: An animal which seeks out, kills, and eats other animals. Humans are considered predators of animals.

prime: When used to talk about animal fur or pelts, refers to the time of the year when the fur is at its best condition. This usually occurs in winter, when the fur thickens to provide extra warmth for the animal.

ptarmigan: A bird belonging to the grouse family; unique to northern regions.

push-up: A muskrat den or habitat located underwater, the top of which is pushed up above the surface of the water or ice.

quill-work: Refers to the decorative work in which porcupine quills are dyed and sewn on to traditional arts and crafts objects, most often hide fabrics and birchbark crafts.

rat canoe: A small and very light watercraft (about 3 metres or ten feet long), used in shallow water for hunting in muskrat habitat.

rawhide: Refers to the stiff, white hide that emerges once the hair and flesh have been scraped off of an animal hide that is hung and washed to dry but does not undergo the tanning process. It may be used in a variety of ways, including as a material for making drums and rattles. Once it has been soaked in resin, rawhide also makes excellent rope or binding and is especially durable when used as webbing for snowshoes.

reefer: A refrigerator or walk-in cooler designated for use by the entire community for the storage of food (mainly big game and fish). It is typically found in northern communities.

Reservation: (Reserve, Res) Parcels of land throughout Canada that were set aside and held in trust for the First Nations people of Canada after Confederation. Established in a series of numbered Treaties and held in trust for the First Nations people by the government through the Department of Indian Affairs, these parcels of land were integrally connected to official “Indian” status and rights.

resin: A vegetable substance secreted by a tree, also known as tree gum or sap, that appears to sweat or ooze from the bark of the tree. It may be used as an adhesive or varnish.

ridgepole: The log that spans the upper ridge or peak of the roof of a log home, giving support to the roof.

ruff: Refers to the trim, usually made of strips of fur, that may be sewn to the hood of a parka to protect against severe weather. It may also be attached to the cuffs and rims of the parka for added decoration and weather protection.

rumen: Refers to the first stomach of the four-stomach digestive system of a number of animals including cows, moose, deer, and caribou, who must digest their food in two steps. Food is chewed and swallowed only to be regurgitated in a semi-digested form called cud, which is chewed and digested again. Rumen is a source of human food.

run-off: Accumulation of rainwater or snowmelt that runs over ground into lakes, streams, and sloughs.

rut (rut season): A season of the year; the mating season of moose, deer, caribou, or sheep. Hunting is made easier during the rut season, as the hunter can imitate animal mating calls and lure animals closer.

scabbard: A protective covering for a rifle, carried over the shoulder, usually made from tanned moose hide.

service community: A settlement, village, or town where food, clothing and supplies are sold, traded or purchased and where social services are supplied.

set: A place where traps and snares are placed to catch animals.

shallow draft: A reference to a boat constructed to travel in shallow water, for example  a flat-bottomed skiff.

sheath: A protective covering for a knife, carried on the waist, made from tanned hide.

short-hair: A designation given small fur-bearing mammals with a shallow or short coat of fur.

sinew: A tendon; a fibrous cord connecting the muscle and bone of the neck of a moose, deer, caribou and other members of the deer family. Sinew can be used in a number of ways, most often as a durable string or thread.

skiff (Chipewyan skiff): A flat-bottomed boat used for navigation across rivers or shallow waters; especially used for travel across fair-weather lakes.

skinning: The process of removing the skin (hide and fur) of an animal from the flesh; preparing an animal carcass by removing the hide to expose the meat for preparation.

sled (carryall): A toboggan about four metres (thirteen feet) long and half a metre (one and a half feet) wide, fitted with a fabric (moosehide) sidewall cover; used to carry people  and supplies; pulled by dogs, snowmobiles or all-terrain wheeled vehicles.

sled dog: A work dog that pulls a toboggan.

smoke cure: The process of curing fish and meat by smoking it over a fire.

smoked: Meat or fish that is prepared by smoke-curing.

snare: An assembled system of roots, flexible branches, sinew, hide, rope or wire that has been fashioned and set to catch mammals of all sizes (particularly fur-bearing animals).

snowshoe: A form of footwear (one to two metres or three to seven feet long) with a prominent curve at the front, devised to allow for travel over soft, deep snow by distributing the weight of the traveler across a greater surface, thus preventing the traveler’s foot from sinking into the snow.

sound ice: Lake or river ice that has frozen thick enough to travel over.

sounding ice: The process of determining the thickness of ice during the first stages of freezing by hitting the surface of the ice with a blunt instrument (usually the head of an axe) and being able to determine by the sound emitted whether or not the ice is thick enough to travel over.

spring camp: A place where a temporary camp is set up for the purpose of fishing or making dried meat, and for hunting for muskrat for fur.

stage: A platform comprised of poles; used to store fish, meat and other supplies out of reach of carnivorous mammals.

stake: A stick or pole placed securely within the ground to which dogs can be tied or boats anchored to shore.

stick-built: Refers to homes or cabins that have been built from sawed or hewn timber, such as lumber.

stick of fish (fish stick): Dog food consisting of several (eight to ten) whole fish, weighing around ten kilograms (twenty-two pounds) in total, strung on to a sharp stick that has been pierced through the tail of each fish. Often, sticks totaling hundreds of fish are hung in the sun to dry.

Sweat (Sweat Lodge Ceremony): A traditional sacred ceremony performed within a Sweat Lodge that involves the act of contemplating one's spiritual and physical well-being. Inside, a sacred fire heats special stones, waking the spirits living inside them. The stones are placed into a shallow pit at the centre of the lodge, often called the bellybutton of Mother Earth. The person residing over the ceremony then pours water over the stones, sending messages upwards to the Creator along with the rising steam. The steam cleanses the body of toxins, and heals the damage done to the soul. The ceremony may be presided over by an Elder, who receives and deciphers sacred messages.

Sweat Lodge: The Sweat Lodge is the place of healing and refuge in which the traditional Sweat Lodge Ceremony takes place. It is constructed out of willow branches which have been bent into the shape of a dome, and covered with blankets or animal hide to keep out light. Inside, a sacred fire heats special stones, waking the spirits living inside them.

tallow: Rendered animal fat fed to working sled dogs to supply them with energy. It may also be used as an energy supplement and cooking fat for humans.

tanning: The process of converting rawhide into a soft leather fabric that is used for a number of purposes, most specifically to make clothing.

Tea Dance Ceremony: A dance involving any number of people who dance side by side in a circle to the rhythm of drums; a social occasion.

teepee (also known as tipi): A housing structure used by Aboriginal Peoples, consisting of a conical frame of wooden poles covered with hide or commercial fabric. The teepee was very easy to transport from place to place, as its wooden base and canvas cover was simple to construct and take down. It could be heated in the winter by a small central fire. The protruding smoke flaps could be shifted to catch the wind or be closed in rainy weather. Its tough hide walls were well anchored to the ground and therefore it remained snug and stable even during the worst prairie storms. Special teepees could also be built as places in which to store and preserve food, such as a smoke-curing tent.

thong: A narrow strip of tanned hide, used as a string, rope, harness, handle, or strap.

traces: Leather straps; a portion of the harness by which dogs pull a toboggan.

trading post: A centrally located station or store at which groceries, trapline supplies, furs, artifacts or cash could be traded or sold.

trail: A narrow, winding pathway leading to trapline sets; connection between trapline residences and service community; walkways of animals.

trapper: A person who sets traps, snares, and baits to lure an animal; a person who trades or markets the raw fur he or she catches; a person who makes a portion or all of his or her living off the resources of the land; a person who also hunts big game for food.

tree-line: The separation between forest land and barren land.

trim: See ruff.

underbrush: Shrub, grass, and plant growth that grows along the floor of a forest.

upstream: In the direction against the flow of the water in a stream.

upwind: Against the direction of the wind. Hunted game will seek a safe place to rest downwind from the suspected direction approach of predators.

watermark; water-line: A mark or stain visible on trees, shrubs, and lake or river banks that has been caused by water; an indicator of the seasonal level of lakes and rivers. To build a cabin above the water-line.

waterway: A traditional route travelled by hunters and trappers; a channel which is travelled by boat.

webbing: The material laced into the frame of a snowshoe. It consists of rawhide straps that have been strengthened and waterproofed with resin (the sap of trees).

whistler: A marmot; a mammal similar but larger than a ground squirrel. Its habitat is the mountain range. Its name is a result of the whistling sound of its call.

wolf-dog: A hybrid resulting from the mating of a wild wolf with a domestic dog.

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