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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Wildlife - Profiles and Uses

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Until two hundred years ago, the people of the bushland sustained themselves solely on the natural resources of the forest. All animals, birds, and fish are edible, but some are favoured over others.

  • -Terry Garvin, from Carving Faces, Carving Lives: People of the Boreal Forest

Like the trees and plants of the boreal forest, animals had an important role to play in sustaining the lives of the northwest Aboriginal Peoples. Mammals, birds, and fish provided the meat that was the primary food source of northern peoples. Mammals and birds provided fur and feathers for the making of everything from clothing to containers. The furs and hides of certain animals were also key to sustaining a traditional bushland trapping economy, though this enterprise has since been supplanted in many northern communities by industries focused on harvesting other resources, like timber and petroleum. The bones of various animals could be crafted into tools. Northern survival depended on a traditional lifestyle that left nothing to waste.

Unlike plants, which could be found if one knew their seasons and favoured places of growth, animals presented a unique challenge to traditional hunters and trappers. Animals move through the landscapes of the boreal forest, searching for food and comfortable shelter. A much wider range of the northern woodland had to be covered in order to find the desired animals, and knowledge of forest conditions, migration patterns, habitual feeding and nesting sites, and other factors had to be taken into account to successfully track and capture the quarry.

When Terry Garvin travelled through the various northern communities described in his book, Carving Faces, Carving Lives, he photographed and recorded the relationship of traditional northern hunters and trappers to the various animals that sustained them. In this website, some of these animals and the ways in which they were traditionally used are discussed.

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††††††††††† For more on Aboriginal hunters and trappers in Canadaís northwest Boreal forest, visit Peelís Prairie Provinces.
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