In the bush, the preferred meat is the red meat from
ungulates, the cloven-hoofed animals: Moose, deer, caribou and elk are favorites.
Meat from rabbits, muskrats, beavers, squirrels, and other fur-bearing
animals was also used, and of this group the plant feeders were favored,
rabbit muskrat, squirrel and beaver in particular. Rabbit was a mainstay
for most of the people. It was a favorite of nearly everyone. Rabbit meat
resembles domestic chicken and it was a pleasant change from a steady
diet of the red meat from the larger mammals. Rabbit meat was available in all
areas of the North. Rabbits were relatively easy to catch in all seasons
and provided a steady source of fresh meat. However, for hundreds of years
rabbit populations went through cycles. In one part of the cycle the
populations would increase steadily until they outran their food supply.
When that happened, usually every eight years, the populations would
"crash". At the low part of this cycle after the crash, many of
the remaining rabbits would be sick, thin and near death, not suitable for
Wolf, coyote, fox and dog meat was seldom eaten - only in extreme
emergencies. Some animals are sacred to particular peoples. Dogrib natives
will not kill a wolf, nor will they eat wolf meat. The wolf is believed to
represent the reincarnation of a Dogrib person and is therefore considered
sacred. Other native groups do not have the same reverence for this
Similarly, Dogrib people will not eat or touch the fat of a bear and
will not touch the meat until the fat is removed. However, bear meat and
its fat are liked by many other bush
people. Bear fat, when rendered,
becomes a clear liquid. It is a preferred fat for frying and at one time
was the preferred fat for preserving a ground mixture of meat and fruit, pemmican.
Reprinted from Bush
Land People with permission of the author.
Copyright Terry Garvin 1992-2002.