The people of the bush land have been here for at least
7 000 years -
here in this forested land alive with plants and animals. The seasons came
and went, the plants flourished, the animals prospered, and so did the
people who lived there. They harvested what they needed from the land,
season by season, secure in the knowledge that what they took from the
land would be replenished by nature from week to week, from season to
season and from year to year. There were good times and bad times. Some
years the supply of game was over-abundant; other times it was critically
reduced by severe weather, disease and over-predation.
The land and its riches were there to be enjoyed, and for the 7000
years prior to the arrival of Europeans the people who lived there did
enjoy the land - in harmony with nature. The people organized themselves
long ago for food harvesting and for getting along together. No one 'owned' the land, the water or the forest. They shared it, and
the people developed rules for settling disputes. They developed stories ,
as we all do, to explain what needs to be explained. All of this became a
central part of their living.
Food and shelter are two basic age-old needs, and the people of
the bush developed sound practices for meeting these needs. Much of the
food came from hunting (moose, caribou and other animals) and fishing. At
the same time housing was created by the people, using local timber. The
basic activities of the people included hunting for food, constructing
housing and finally preparing goods for trade. In this way bush people
were living off the land while running traplines. Running traplines
involved harvesting natural fur-bearing animals, for the most part -
rabbits, muskrat, foxes, beavers and mink. Bush land people collected food
locally for subsistence (as by hunting and fishing) and trapped
fur-bearing animals both for local use and 'for sale.'
The trapper had the best of all worlds if the trapline area inhabited
by fur-bearing animals was also the habitat of animals, fish and birds for
his/her own food supply.
The location of a trapper's home - they call them 'home
bases' - was always carefully selected. Native bush lands were not
organized as in the South with rigid definitions of ownership of land. In
the bush the, hunter-trappers had no rights as owners of the land as
defined by today's real property laws, but they did have exclusive rights
to hunt and trap in particular areas if they had made first claims and
then actually developed and 'used' such areas. It was customary
for the hunter-trapper to build a home base on the trapline property in
order to be close to country food and furs.
The home base residence was always located on the shoreline of a lake
or river, preferably at places where tributary streams flowed into a
river. In this way, the water route linked the home base of a
trapper-hunter to the home base of neighboring trappers and hunters and
with the service and supply communities. In addition, lakes and rivers
were convenient gathering points for social activities. During open-water
seasons travel was by boat, and in the winter ice covered rivers and lakes
provided good transportation routes for dog team and sled travel. [continue]
Reprinted from Bush Land People with the permission of the author.
Copyright Terry Garvin, 1992-2002.