From the Yukon River to the Blackstone Uplands, from a host of rivers and lakes to the soaring peaks of the Tombstone Mountains, our land abounds in a variety of landscapes and resources. In addition to the beauty that nourishes our souls, we have abundant clean water, food from fish, animals and plants, and everything necessary to fulfill our needs.
We never take this bounty for granted. When we go out on the land, we try to be in a positive and grateful frame of mind. We thank the Earth for her gifts by leaving small offerings, such as tobacco or tea. We teach our young people not to “eat out the country” by taking all the plants or animals. We know that other creatures also depend on these foods for survival and we leave enough so the area can replenish itself.
In spring, people chopped holes in lake and river ice to fish for grayling. They also caught suckers, inconnu (sheefish) and whitefish.
Hunting and Trapping
An important requirement for obtaining food is a thorough knowledge of the habits and movements of a variety of large and small animals throughout the year.
In spring, our people looked forward to fresh food from fish, returning waterfowl and small mammals such as beaver. They also looked forward to fresh greens and collected wild rhubarb, wild onion, fireweed shoots and birch sap.
Chief Isaac ice fishing for grayling, ca. 1900. George Cantwell photographer
MacBride Museum of Yukon History, #1989-58-1
Food Preparation and Storage
Our ancestors lacked refrigerators, freezers and modern food processing and packaging methods. Nonetheless, they devised several effective methods for cooking food, preserving the surplus and protecting it from hungry predators.
The Indian people try to tell the white people, don’t eat just meat, you got to eat everything with it. Gristle, marrow, bone … a lot of white people die of scurvy because they didn’t do what we told them. … Eat the caribou, eat all the plants from mother earth and eat what’s good for us. So we eat everything in there, that’s where we get our vitamins, medicine and stuff.
Percy Henry, 1993
Arthur Anderson by his family's salmon-drying rack at Forty Mile, ca. 1930s.
Yukon Archives #8412, Claude and Mary Tidd fonds