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1899 and After

Trapline Homes and Traditional Camps

An ideal shoreline at the home base was a sand and gravel ground that sloped gradually toward the water. Mud banks were avoided because they were subject to erosion and were murky and messy to work on when loading, unloading or docking scows, skiffs, canoes or boats.

Most trapline homes of log construction were single rooms,Log Cabin at Fort Fitzgerald sometimes with a porch. A standard living space was approximately 45 to 55 square metres. Such a house could be extended by adding rooms, porches or verandas. Log cabins tend to have small gaps between the logs, and these were closed, using moss as a fibre mixed in mud as a caulking compound. Modern log homes may have fibreglass insulation with caulking held in place with narrow boards or cement. Doors and windows were set in wall openings, and care was taken to allow for settling of the walls, because new logs settle and shrink as they dry out. In this process they went from being green, or alive with moisture and sap, to being dry. This process took as long as two or three years, during which the walls of a log cabin would shrink and settle some 75 - 100 mm. 

A log cabin had a roof made of local materials. A traditionally made roof was a series of 75 mm poles on which sod was placed. These pole were placed side by side spanning the distance from the side walls to a center ridge pole placed a metre higher that the side wall. The ridge pole was supported in position by end logs resting on the corners of the walls. The largest log cabins had an additional ridge pole midway between the centre ridge pole and the wall, i.e.., halfway down the roof, to give additional support to the roof poles. Muskeg (peat) was laid on the poles to insulate the roof and to absorb moisture. Then sod was laid over the insulating muskeg. This consisted of strips of topsoil 50 to 75 mm thick, with roots and grass cover still in place. This roofing material was weatherproof for the most part, but moisture could eventually penetrate during a prolonged, heavy rainstorm. The modern bush person builds with a combination of logs and lumber, commercial roofing shingles and pre-built windows and doors.

Inside the log cabin, the dirt floor was covered with long grass and spruce boughs. To clean the floor, the grass and boughs were removed and burned, and new material was put in place. In this home there were no furnishings except for a wood burning stove. It is rare now to see a cabin with a dirt floor.

In the olden days every home base camp was built on a water transportation route, and this is still the custom. If the plan is to build in a location where logs are not locally available but available elsewhere within a reasonable distance on the water transportation route, they can be floated and towed by a power boat to the building location. Every contemporary bush person has a power boat, so there is no problem transporting them that way. And if lumber is used instead of logs or in addition to logs, it can be transported by boat or skiff from lumber-supply businesses in central service communities. For example, trappers and hunters can purchase building materials from sawmill operations in the region. Lumber, hardware and glass are available at still larger, centrally located communities. The modern trapper-hunter may still use logs, but it is unusual for a trapper-hunter now to build exclusively with materials supplied directly from the natural environment. If the home base is to be built in the service community itself, the home will be similar but larger and furnished with store bought appliances and furniture.

SnomobileThe move to centralized communities was accelerated by the coming of motorized transportation on the traplines. Snowmobiles reduced the amount of time trappers needed to be out on the line. Some traplines are as far as 200 km from the service community. This is a two day trip by dogs, but only five or six hours by snowmobile if trail conditions are good.

When dog-team transportation, or walking the line, was the only means of travel, smaller line cabins were built on the trapline for overnight accommodation. These were located approximately 20 km apart for travelling convenience. This was the distance normally covered by dog team in a day of checking sets (traps and snares). This was a comfortable distance to travel while attending to all the chores of the day in addition to checking the sets. These include looking after the catch of the day, resetting traps and snares, actual trail travel time, preparing food and repairing clothing and equipment - and getting ready for the next day's trip. A line cabin was often a very functional temporary residence, similar to but usually smaller than the home base camp. It did not get the same care in construction or final detail as the home base residence. [continue]

Reprinted from Bush Land People with the permission of the author. Copyright Terry Garvin, 1992-2002.

©copyright Heritage Community Foundation 2002.  All Rights Reserved.