Chipewyan - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . The seasonal round of economic activities in aboriginal and early-contact times centered on the movement of the caribou herds. In the spring when the herds moved out of the boreal forest to their breeding grounds on the tundra and in the late autumn when they returned, local and regional bands coalesced and situated themselves along the migration routes and killed large numbers of caribou in communal hunts. Traditionally, hunting parties employed the chute and pound method and killed the caribou with spears and arrows. In the summer on the tundra and in the winter in the boreal forest the herds dispersed and were pursued in small, scattered hunting groups; at these times of the year fishing with nets, weirs, spears, bows and arrows, and hook and line was also an important Subsistence activity. Other animals hunted included ducks, geese, bears, beaver, squirrels, and wolverines. Fur trapping from late autumn through early winter was added to the aboriginal subsistence pattern after the Chipewyan became involved in the European trade. The Boreal Forest Chipewyan, as a consequence of involvement in fur trade, abandoned seasonal migrations to the barren grounds in search of caribou and hunted moose and woodland caribou instead. In the 1960s limited wage labor and commercial hunting and fishing became important factors in the Chipewyan economy.

Industrial Arts. Besides being the main source of food, the caribou also provided the raw material for hunting and fishing equipment, lodge coverings, clothing, bedding, and snowshoe webbing. This material culture complex was considerably modified quickly by the introduction of European firearms and metal tools. Dogs are used as beasts of burden.

Trade. The Chipewyan were not at first heavily involved in the fur trade owing to the scarcity of fur-bearing game in their territory. Nevertheless, they did play an active middleman role in connecting European traders with native groups farther west, a role that continued to earn them considerable profits into the early nineteenth century.

Division of Labor. Men's work was concerned primarily with hunting and fishing. Women erected lodges, set and broke camp, hauled supplies, prepared fires and food, prepared skins, made clothing, dried meat, cared for children, snared small game, and gathered plant foods. The hard lot of women reflected their low status in Chipewyan society.

Land Tenure. In aboriginal and early-contact times Regional bands were associated with the vaguely defined wintering territories and migration routes of different caribou herds. Involvement in the fur trade led to the development of a Concept of land use rights in trapping areas, but not to actual land ownership. Land ownership was made more concrete in 1958 when the Manitoba government required the registration of trap lines.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: