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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Life on the Trapline

trappers trail

For many of the Aboriginal Peoples of the northwest, traditional life in the boreal forest was centred on the hunting and gathering grounds and traplines. Because the world of northern peoples is characterized by a cold climate and a perilously short growing season not conducive to large agricultural activity, survival depends on successful hunting, gathering, and trapping. Meat and fish are the main elements in a northern diet, so much hunting and trapping is done to secure a good supply of food that will last throughout the year. The gathering of berries, fruits, and other parts of plants helps supplement the food supply. Main camps and line cabins are built in strategic locations along trapline trails, with their builders always mindful of the need to get access to the plants, animals, birds, and fish that are needed for survival. Resourcefulness is also key to survival in the north. As much of the animal or plant that can be used will be, because it is the only means of obtaining everything that is needed. Clothing is crafted from the hides and furs of different animals, and various tools can be crafted from the bones of captured creatures, or from the wood of trees.

grave site marker

Since the arrival of Europeans and the evolution of the fur trade industry in the north, there has been a shift in thinking for Aboriginal Peoples in the northwest. In addition to providing sustenance for themselves, hunting and trapping has also become a means of gathering the income needed to purchase additional supplies. Subsequent introduction of other industries like forestry and petroleum have also led to a further shift in thinking; for younger generations, this shift has often been away from the traditions of their elders. Aboriginal Elders have tried to address this by encouraging youth to adopt a traditional knowledge of the land on which they live. For those descended from generations who have lived and died in an intimate relationship with the land, the challenge is to adopt new technology that can still function in a traditional mode of living. Traditional life has been adapted to meet the demands of a changing north.

Featured Video: Northern Hunting and Trapping Customs

The Heritage Community Foundation, with the kind permission of Terry Garvin, is pleased to present this feature excerpt from the Bush Land People video.

The Dogrib, Chipewyan, and Cree Peoples who live in the boreal forest have developed different hunting and trapping customs to ensure their survival in the north. Click on the clip title to learn more.

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Featured Video: Summer in the Bushland

The Heritage Community Foundation, with the kind permission of Terry Garvin, is pleased to present this feature excerpt from the Bush Land People video.

The change of seasons from winter to summer in the boreal forest brings opportunities for traditional hunters, trappers, and gatherers to make necessary repairs to shelters and equipment, and to finish processing hides and furs.

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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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