Montagnais-Naskapi - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities . All Montagnais-Naskapi followed a general pattern of hunting and fishing. Regional variations existed, however, with a greater emphasis on caribou hunting among the Naskapi in the North, on fishing among the East Main Cree in the West, and on moose hunting among the Montagnais in the South. Caribou and moose were the principal food resources during the winter; bear, beaver, and fowl during the spring and Summer; eel in the fall; and beaver, porcupine, and smoked eel during the early winter. Bows and arrows and spears were the traditional hunting weapons. Caribou were hunted by driving them into lakes and pursuing them in canoes and by pursuing them on snowshoes through deep snow; moose were also hunted by the latter method. Bears were killed while hibernating or by means of deadfalls and snares. Eels were speared and in the early fall were taken using stone weirs. Other fish taken by the Montagnais-Naskapi included salmon, lake trout, pike, walleye, sucker, sturgeon, whitefish, catfish, and smelt. In the more southerly areas of the Labrador Peninsula various types of fruits and berries, nuts, and tubers were gathered in the summer to supplement the diet.

Fur trapping and trading became central to the Montagnais-Naskapi economy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and remained so until very recent times. The animals trapped included beaver, fox, marten, wolves, wolverine, and muskrat. Today, many families continue to hunt and trap as a supplement to income from seasonal wage labor and government support programs.

Industrial Arts. The nomadic way of life of the Montagnais-Naskapi placed a premium on mobility. Cedar-ribbed birchbark canoes were used for traveling streams and lakes in the summer, and in the winter the deep snows were traversed by means of snowshoes and toboggans. Snowshoes were made in several styles for use in differing terrains and snow depths and conditions. Canvas coverings obtained from Europeans eventually replaced the traditional birchbark covering of canoes. The Montagnais-Naskapi adopted many practical items of European manufacture, although long after contact they continued to make many of their own tools and equipment out of traditional materials such as wood, bone, and antler.

Trade. Within the region of the Labrador Peninsula cedar and birchbark for canoe construction were traded from indigenous groups in the South to those in the North, where those resources were unavailable. The groups of the St. Lawrence region traded moose hides to the Huron for maize and tobacco. At the large summer gatherings, Montagnais-Naskapi on the St. Lawrence River traded with Abnaki, Algonkin, and Huron.

Division of Labor. A sexual division of labor characterized Montagnais-Naskapi society. Males hunted and trapped and were primarily responsible for trading; females processed animal hides, made clothing and birchbark baskets, prepared food, and cared for children. Both men and women fished and together they manufactured canoes and snowshoes.

Land Tenure. Aboriginally and in early historic times Montagnais-Naskapi hunting groups were associated with and occupied a particular territory, but without any defined notion of ownership or restrictive use rights. With the Development of the trapping and trading economy and particularly with the emergence of the less nomadic trading post band, notions of territoriality and use rights developed, but in a way that reflected both the traditional and the new economic realities. Hunting and trapping territories had diffuse Boundaries, and different types of resource use were recognized: resources exploited for group subsistence needs were available to any who needed them, whereas those resources exploited for sale or trade to Europeans belonged to the individual or group on whose territory they were found.

User Contributions:

Brooklyn Jurgensen
Report this comment as inappropriate
Oct 19, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
Did the Naskapi tribe Hunter or farm. Because i need to know for my project.

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