Hare - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Traditionally, the Hare were hunters and fishers. Both large and small game and birds were shot with bows and arrows, speared, snared, surrounded, or netted. Formerly, a cooperative August-September hunt for caribou was very important, as was a Second hunt in April. The rest of the year, the Hare fished for lake trout, whitefish, and other species and hunted small game like birds and hares. For some Hare Indians who lived near the Mackenzie River, the dependence on hares was so great that when the population of these ruminants crashed, which occurred cyclically, starvation and on occasion cannibalism were the results. After European fur traders arrived, the Hare adjusted their annual cycle to accommodate trapping: marten, lynx, and mink in winter, beaver and muskrats in late winter and spring. Dogs increased in importance and numbers as fur trapping did. Before 1900, musk-oxen were important to the diet; in recent years, moose have repopulated Hare territory and many are shot. For the last one hundred years, the Hare have supplemented their diet with tea, flour, sugar, and other store-purchased foods.

Today, few Hare Indians depend on the bush alone for fulfilling all their needs, and most spend summer months in town, hoping for fire-fighting jobs. The ideal is to combine wage labor with subsistence activities, including trapping, during the course of the year. Indeed, though the replacement value of fish and game consumed is substantial, the bulk of any person's or family's income is from wage labor or welfare and transfer payments.

Industrial Arts. From wood, roots, caribou and hare skins, sinew, bone, antler, and stone, the aboriginal Hare made and used spruce-framed birchbark canoes, snowshoes, nets and snares, bows and arrows, clothing, baskets in which liquid, with the aid of hot stones, was boiled, scrapers, and other products. Today, store-purchased goods have replaced most of the aboriginal technology. Formerly, some clothing was decorated with porcupine quill weaving; today, silk embroidery and beadwork in floral and geometric designs adorn jackets, vests, moccasins, gauntlets, and mukluks.

Trade. Unlike their neighbors, the Kutchin and the Yellowknife, the Hare were not known to be interested traders or middlemen. Nevertheless, they participated in the trade with European fur traders from the late eighteenth century on and annually brought the skins and meat of caribou and musk-oxen and furs of beavers, martens, and muskrats to Exchange for European goods and, after 1890, tea, flour, and other foods. In the nineteenth century, middlemen Hare Indians traded European goods occasionally with Mackenzie Delta Inuit.

Division of Labor. Although few tasks were the exclusive province of either men or women throughout the historic period, women have tended to be principally responsible for taking care of young children, making clothing, collecting berries, preparing food, drying fish, and pulling toboggans; and men for hunting, fishing, trapping, and making drums. Even today, some women do not handle or use boats on their own because to do so would bring bad luck.

Land Tenure. There is no permanent ownership of land or resources. The Hare have always been able to hunt, fish, and trap where they wish, as long as they feel secure and as long as no one else has habitually used, and plans to continue to use, a specific area. In 1950, the Hare were assigned a game area northwest of Great Bear Lake as their exclusive hunting and trapping area, which represented a fraction of their former range.

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