From Fort Selkirk, we started up the Pelly River there,
pulling boats too. We came back with dry meat, on a big raft lots
of fresh meat and grub. We had everything at that time. They killed
a whole bunch of moose and caribou and sheep and all that. They
didn't need to buy anything at the store. They used that fat out of
the moose and caribou meat, whatever they can get a hold of. They
used that for lard. They used to have a pile as big as this house
when they came back with dry meat.
... We didn't let anything go, if we got anything. Sheep - they
got fat sheep in the falltime. We dried meat. We got enough until
Nobody was hungry.... We helped all the time one another too. We
trapped for fur. We trapped lynx. It tastes as good as turkey! We
ate beaver meat and muskrats.
-Johnny Alfred in Part of the Land, Part of the Water, p.
See Dad's cache, 10' by 10'. One side king salmon, one side dry
meat, down the middle all kinds of berries. Everybody do that not
-Stanley Jonathan, 1993
Selkirk First Nation people hunted the following animals for
food: moose, caribou, sheep, mountain goat, beaver, lynx, hare,
porcupine, ground squirrel (gopher), muskrat, marmot (ground hog),
porcupine, and squirrel.
They netted and trapped several species of freshwater fish
including: pike/jackfish (táli), grayling (t’a), burbot, broad
whitefish, lake whitefish (yok degay and tezrá lake
trout (mbyaat), ling cod (telyók) lake herring
(least cisco), round whitefish (shaankay), long nose sucker
(tats'aat), and inconnu (sru). Less common were pygmy whitefish and
slimy sculpin. During the summer spawning run, people moved to fish
camps on the main rivers to catch chinook or king salmon (gyo) and
chum or dog salmon (thi).
People hunted migrating geese, ducks and swans and in spring,
collected eggs from nesting sites.
Plants eaten in the past included certain roots (bear root),
berries, young leaf shoots, and mushrooms. People picked rosehips
and various berries including soapberries (ninghro), mossberries
or crow berries (dent'ro), high bush cranberries, low bush
cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bear berries.
Different food resources were obtained from different areas
according to the season. For example, people went to the rivers
during the summer salmon runs, netted fish through the ice at
inland lakes in winter, harvested berries and other plants and
hunted sheep, moose, and caribou in the mountains in fall.
Preparation & Preservation
When a hunter was successful in obtaining a large animal, people
set up camp at the site of the kill. They sliced the meat into thin
slabs for drying and/or smoking. People caught fish in summer
during the salmon runs and in winter, at fishing lakes. Summer fish
camps were a time of getting together, everyone working hard to
catch, cut up and dry the salmon.
Sometimes berries were dried and stored in a cool place. Berries
were also put in birch bark containers or the stomach bag of an
animal and stored in a hole in the ground. Blueberries,
raspberries, and strawberries were harder to keep so they were
cooked well, mixed with grease, sometimes with fish eggs and
stored. Sometimes berries were cooked up with meat and grease then
stored in an animal stomach.
Extra food was stored in caches. A high cache could be a
platform in the trees or a small shed mounted on four poles. People
dug ground caches on dry hillsides or in the uplands and, in later
year, under floors. Each family had four or five caches at
different locations. A single family would try to cache about 500
salmon, five or six moose, and a quantity of small game.
Using Traditional Foods Today
Today, many First Nation members still rely on the land for much
of their food. People go hunting for moose each fall and every
summer, numerous fish camps are set up on the Pelly and Yukon
Rivers. While people now have access to freezers, many still dry
and smoke fish and game, as their grandparents did before them.
Pelly Crossing children learn about hunting, fishing and food
preparation methods as part of their school programs.
Council for Yukon Indians, 1993. Land of My Ancestors -
Plants as Food and Medicine, Yukon First Nations perspective on our
Council for Yukon Indians, 19??. Walking With Grampa,
Tommy McGinty's stories of traditional lifestyles with
illustrations by Norman Silas.
N.A. Easton, 1989. Fort Selkirk Culture History Report:
1989 Oral History Program Report.
Ruth M. Gotthardt, 1987. The Selkirk Indian Band. Culture
and Land Use Study.
McClellan, C. et al, 1987. Part of the Land, Part of the