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1899 and After

Wild meat and hunting


MooseIn 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 human food.

WolfWolf, 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 animal. 

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.

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