Native people who obtained subsistence from
hunting and gathering activities moved seasonally in search of food. For
example, the Chipewyan, who lived in the boreal forest west of Hudson
Bay, moved onto the tundra to hunt caribou. At other times, they remained
in the woodlands to fish, and to hunt moose and bear. Snaring smaller
animals such as beaver and rabbit was also common place. During warmer
seasons, family-based Cree bands travelled by canoe in search of food.
In winter they travelled by toboggan and snow shoe. Typically their food
source included woodland caribou, moose, duck, geese, and fish.
The Objibwa, who had access to abundant hunting and fishing grounds
were not as nomadic as some other Native groups. They established a
semi-sedentary culture by building birch bark dwellings. In addition to
a predominately high protein diet, the Ojibwa harvested wild rice.
Ojibwa women harvested wild rice, which grew along the marshy shores of
rivers and lakes. The women shook the ripe ends of the rice into the
bottom of their small canoes. Afterwards, rice was parched and stored in
fawn bags. In the springtime, Native women also made maple sugar. Plains
Native groups such as the Assiniboine and the Blackfoot Confederacy (Peigan,
Blood, and Siksikaw) made buffalo their staple food. Naturally, they
hunted other game and they fished. The Assiniboine had a custom of using
hot stones to boil meat in hide bags.
Native babies were nursed until they were old enough to eat adult
fare, which meant children were nursed until their teeth came in. While
Native peoples' food supply was fairly reliable, especially during
warmer months, they were aware of nature's cycles and nature's periods
of severe scarcity. Native women planned ahead for periods of scarcity
by preserving fish and meat.The Ojibwa, Cree, and Chipewyan preserved
fish, moose, and caribou by drying these meats over their fires. The
Assiniboine and Blackfoot preserved buffalo meat by turning it into
According to historian John Thompson Herd, these Canadian Native
groups were better nourished than European peasants living in the same
historical period. Archaeological evidence indicates that the
Assiniboine and the Cree traded fur hides and preserved meats for corn,
bean, and squash with the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa to the south.
Native and Métis Medicinal Foods
European Influences on Métis Food