Slavey - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Slavey were hunters and fishermen for whom vegetable products provided little food (perhaps 5 percent of their diet). The basic food resources were moose, woodland caribou, bear, beaver, fish (whitefish, lake trout, grayling, and herring), rabbits, and duck. With the addition of trapping, beaver, marten, mink, fox, muskrat, and lynx became important for their fur. In their economic pursuits people employed snares, clubs, bows and arrows, spears, fishing weirs, and deadfalls. With the fur trade came guns, twine fish nets, metal traps, canvas tents, and assorted metal tools such as ice chisels. Boats and motors and snowmobiles are essential to the contemporary pursuit of traditional resources.

Industrial Arts. Slavey industrial arts were not highly developed, but hides, stone, bone, and wood were finely worked in production of snowshoes, toboggans, bags, drums, and other material items.

Trade. Traditionally, trade was inconsequential. Before contact with Mackenzie, exchange with Cree and Chipewyan middlemen probably introduced some items of Western material culture. Despite participation in the fur trade, the Slavey remained socioeconomically autonomous from the 1790s to the start of World War I. After the war, through the fur trade they became dependent on European goods and services. Trapping and fur trading continue to provide significant amounts of income in Slavey communities.

Division of Labor. The traditional division of labor was based on sex and age, with little occupational specialization. Men were primarily responsible for hunting, fishing, and trapping; women, for child rearing, maintaining the household, snaring small game, collecting berries, processing food, and manufacturing clothing. Children aided and eventually assumed the roles of their like-sexed parents.

Land Tenure. Land was not owned, with access to resource sites restricted by use principles. Local and regional bands, however, were symbolically associated with the Territories they frequented. With the fur trade came some registration of trapping lines.

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