Of all of the land mammals, caribou is considered the most essential to our well being. Our patterns of caribou hunting have always been determined by the topography of the land, but also by the cycle of the caribou population. When there are many caribou they can often be hunted without having to travel great distances, so it is possible to hunt caribou and marine mammals from the same camping place. When caribou numbers are low it is often necessary to travel great distances inland to find places where small scattered groups can be found.

In earlier days, we would often hunt caribou while they were crossing rivers or lakes where they could be more easily killed. We would butcher the caribou and then store the meat under piles of rock to keep it safe from wolves or fox. In the winter, when it was easier to travel overland by dog sled, we would return to these caches and bring the meat back to the village.

One of the most important times of the year for hunting caribou is in the late summer and early fall. It is at this time that their hair is best for making winter clothing. One of the reasons caribou is so warm for winter clothing is that the hair is hollow Read More
Of all of the land mammals, caribou is considered the most essential to our well being. Our patterns of caribou hunting have always been determined by the topography of the land, but also by the cycle of the caribou population. When there are many caribou they can often be hunted without having to travel great distances, so it is possible to hunt caribou and marine mammals from the same camping place. When caribou numbers are low it is often necessary to travel great distances inland to find places where small scattered groups can be found.

In earlier days, we would often hunt caribou while they were crossing rivers or lakes where they could be more easily killed. We would butcher the caribou and then store the meat under piles of rock to keep it safe from wolves or fox. In the winter, when it was easier to travel overland by dog sled, we would return to these caches and bring the meat back to the village.

One of the most important times of the year for hunting caribou is in the late summer and early fall. It is at this time that their hair is best for making winter clothing. One of the reasons caribou is so warm for winter clothing is that the hair is hollow which creates even greater insulation.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Caribou

In summer, caribou antlers are covered with a soft velvet like fur and their skin is at its best for winter clothing.

Courtesy of Parks Canada.

© Parks Canada


caribou

Caribou in their summer range.

Photo by Eric Loring

© Eric Loring


When the fur trade started to move north in the early 1900s, the Arctic Fox took on much more significance as a resource. Before then we would build stone traps to capture fox in order to use the fur. Fox was almost never eaten by Inuit, but its food was not wasted since it could be fed to dogs. Once trapping became important, the patterns and the way we used the land changed greatly. We would move inland in the wintertime in order to be near the areas where fox was plentiful. Unfortunately, this activity would often take us away from areas where we could find food for ourselves.
When the fur trade started to move north in the early 1900s, the Arctic Fox took on much more significance as a resource. Before then we would build stone traps to capture fox in order to use the fur. Fox was almost never eaten by Inuit, but its food was not wasted since it could be fed to dogs. Once trapping became important, the patterns and the way we used the land changed greatly. We would move inland in the wintertime in order to be near the areas where fox was plentiful. Unfortunately, this activity would often take us away from areas where we could find food for ourselves.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

A Stone Structure

In earlier times, a stone structure was built to trap fox.

Photo by Eric Loring

© Eric Loring


Fox trap

"Qiggiriaq" (Build a fox trap)

Mary Pudlat
Courtesy of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, Cape Dorset, Nunavut.
1987
Stonecut/Stencil
© West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, Cape Dorset, Nunavut.


We are able to catch char in large numbers in the spring when they move from freshwater lakes to the sea and again in the fall when they move back upstream. Especially in the fall we would build dams in some of the shallow rivers in order to collect fish for spearing. In spring, we would cut a hole through the lake ice and then use a spear.

Using a spear to catch fish can be very difficult because the ice is usually very thick and it takes a trained eye to spot the fish and a skilled arm to thrust the spear in the right direction at the right speed. We also have to know the pattern of how the fish live and move below the ice so that we can chop our holes at the right places. Fish can be found in almost all of the lakes and rivers. Inuit are very good at recognizing the different tastes of fish from different rivers and lakes and each of us thinks that our local lake produces the best tasting fish.
We are able to catch char in large numbers in the spring when they move from freshwater lakes to the sea and again in the fall when they move back upstream. Especially in the fall we would build dams in some of the shallow rivers in order to collect fish for spearing. In spring, we would cut a hole through the lake ice and then use a spear.

Using a spear to catch fish can be very difficult because the ice is usually very thick and it takes a trained eye to spot the fish and a skilled arm to thrust the spear in the right direction at the right speed. We also have to know the pattern of how the fish live and move below the ice so that we can chop our holes at the right places. Fish can be found in almost all of the lakes and rivers. Inuit are very good at recognizing the different tastes of fish from different rivers and lakes and each of us thinks that our local lake produces the best tasting fish.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

fish

Drying fish for winter use.

Photo by Eric Loring

© Eric Loring


fishing

Ice fishing is a favourite activity of many Inuit.

Photo by Eric Loring, 1987

© Eric Loring


Fishing

Springtime fishing

Arnaqu Ashevak
Courtesy of the West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, Cape Dorset, Nunavut
1994
Lithograph/stencil
© West Baffin Eskimo Co-op, Cape Dorset, Nunavut.


In spring, fishing through the ice can contribute significantly to the household economy.  Maximum

In spring, fishing through the ice can contribute significantly to the household economy.

Photo by Eric Loring

© Eric Loring


Bird hunting is also very important to us. Inuit look forward to the arrival of geese and ducks because they know that they arrive at the beginning of real spring. Geese are hunted along the shore and ducks are usually hunted on small islands off the shore where their nests are safer from fox.

In spring, we collect duck eggs from nests. Collection does not mean taking all of the eggs. After the eggs hatch, and the young ducks move away from the nest, we return to collect the nest itself since it is made out of warm soft down which, after cleaning, we can use to make our winter clothing.
Bird hunting is also very important to us. Inuit look forward to the arrival of geese and ducks because they know that they arrive at the beginning of real spring. Geese are hunted along the shore and ducks are usually hunted on small islands off the shore where their nests are safer from fox.

In spring, we collect duck eggs from nests. Collection does not mean taking all of the eggs. After the eggs hatch, and the young ducks move away from the nest, we return to collect the nest itself since it is made out of warm soft down which, after cleaning, we can use to make our winter clothing.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Eggs

Eider duck eggs.

Photo by Eric Loring

© Eric Loring


Nest

An eider duck's nest is made from the down pulled from its body.

Photo by Eric Loring

© Eric Loring


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Using examples, describe how Arctic land and freshwater animals are important for sustaining life for the Inuit
  • Describe some traditional Inuit techniques for hunting and fishing
  • Relate, using examples, traditional Inuit philosophies toward animals and their harvest

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