Dogrib - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Into the late twentieth century, the Dogrib relied on the game and fish of the land, increasingly supplemented by flour and lard from the trading post. Caribou were a major resource from September through March when the caribou retreated to the farther reaches of the barren grounds. Moose were taken year round. A large game kill was shared among all families in the local group. Contingent on its ten-year population cycle, the snowshoe hare was the major small game. With the introduction in the nineteenth century of commercial twine for gill nets, fish became an important resource. The Dogrib were drawn into the fur trade after the end of the eighteenth century and by the middle of the nineteenth century were committed to a dual economy of subsistence hunting, fishing, and snaring combined with the taking of fur animals (such as beaver, marten, fox) whose skins they traded for metal implements, guns, cloth, clothing, and so on. As Rae expanded in population and services after 1950, a few Dogrib, especially those who were bilingual, found employment as trading store clerks and janitors in government installations. Bush clearing and fire fighting are seasonal summer employments for men. In the 1980s, an Indian-operated fishing lodge for tourists was opened at the Dogrib bush hamlet of Lac la Martre. The dog was the only domestic animal aboriginally. Dogs did not become significant in transport until the nineteenth century, once firearms and twine for fish nets allowed families to provision a multidog team.

Industrial Arts. The making of snowshoes, toboggans, and birchbark canoes by men and the processing of caribou and moose hides for clothing and footgear by women were aboriginal crafts vital to survival. Decorative art rested in the hands of the women, as adornment on apparel. Aboriginal porcupine quill decoration largely gave way to silk floss Embroidery and beadwork in historic times. Containers of birch-bark, of furred and unfurred hides, and of rawhide netting, often handsomely executed, were women's work as well.

Trade. There was no consequential precontact trade between the Dogrib and neighboring Indian peoples. The fur trade was regularized in the early nineteenth century and remains the single dominant trade relation in Dogrib history.

Division of Labor. Into recent times men were the hunters of the large game without which the people could not survive. Husband and wife might share the task of gill-net fishing which became increasingly important after net twine was introduced. Women made dry meat and dry fish, processed hides for clothing and, sometimes aided by their husbands, the fur pelts for the fur trade. Rabbit snaring, firewood gathering, cooking, and other activities that could take place close to the hearth were ordinarily the responsibility of women. Especially in bush communities, all these tasks remain Important economic activities.

Land Tenure. There was no ownership of land by either individuals or groups aboriginally, and so it has remained to the present day. The resources of the land were open to all. Government-registered trap lines were never established among the Dogrib.

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