Carib

St. Lucia, St Lucia

First Contact:

10
70
20
gather% / fish % / hunt %
fat % / protein % / carb%

A rough estimate to help us understand how carnivorous and how ketogenic these people were before being exposed to western civilization

1/0

Click this Slide deck Gallery to see high quality images of the tribe, daily life, diet, hunting and gathering or recipes

About the Tribe

Who were the Carib? - Possibly a carnivore population.


CARNIWAY-animals-only.png

Importance of Animal Products

The Carib Indians were primarily fishing people. They took to sea in their long canoes to catch fish, crabs, and other seafood. Hunters also shot birds and small game.

Importance of Plants

In some Carib communities, farming was an important food source, with cassava, beans, squash, and peppers being grown. Other Carib groups did little farming and acquired peppers and cassava through trade or raiding.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545405/?page=4

shutterstock_300666986 (1).png
Untitled design (17).png

Transition to Industrialized Food Products

Observations on the Diseases Which Appeared in the Army at St. Lucia in 1778 and 1779. To Which Are Prefixed Remarks, Calculated to Assist in Explaining the Treatment of Those Diseases. With an Appendix, Containing a Short Address to Military Gentlemen on the Means of Preserving Health in the West Indies


In the fourth chapter the author describes the situations of the island, in which the men specified in the table were fixed, and endeavours to determine which are the most healthy. For this purpoSe he gives a comparative view of the health of the natives compared with that of the troops.

He observes, that "at Carenage-town the People are:

  • short-lived,

  • have annual attacks of fever,

  • yellow and meagre countenances,

  • small legs, except when edematous,

  • so that they have the appearance of persons worn out by disease.

At Gros Met, we are told:

  • the inhabitants live longer,

  • are not fo subject to disease, at least not the same degree or duration,

  • and that they are fuller in the face,

  • and more hearty.

At Souffrir the inhabitants have:

  • cheerful countenances,

  • and nearly in a state of health with those of Gros Islet,

but this, our author thinks, may be attributed to a better diet rather than situation. "

On the extensive plain to windward of this place very few diseases appear, and they are mostly internments : the countenances here of the women, of the children, and even of the men, have some degree of resemblance to those of the European, the female has the red on her cheek, and the child has all the marks of health.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5545405/?page=4


Carenage, formerly known as Le Carenage, is one of the most popular bays located in west Trinidad. This bay, which is a famous sea bathing and liming area, got its name out of the practice of "careening", or cleaning out the waste materials in sea vessels, which was carried out in the area for centuries.

Initially, Le Carenage was the name given to the river flowing into this bay as well as the valley were the river flowed.

The Carenage valley, possibly because of its extremely fertile soils was essentially an agricultural area where crops sugar-cane, cotton and coffee were grown. In fact, the area contained ten sugar mills, five rum distilleries and a workforce consisting of 607 enslaved Africans and 131 'free' people of colour. Owners of the estates comprised of 19 families (64 whites), including the Dumas, Noel, Dert, Mercie families. http://www.trinbagopan.com/Townsandvillages/Carenage2.html


Carenage, formerly known as Le Carenage, is one of the most popular bays located in west Trinidad. This bay, which is a famous sea bathing and liming area, got its name out of the practice of "careening", or cleaning out the waste materials in sea vessels, which was carried out in the area for centuries.

Initially, Le Carenage was the name given to the river flowing into this bay as well as the valley were the river flowed.

The Carenage valley, possibly because of its extremely fertile soils was essentially an agricultural area where crops sugar-cane, cotton and coffee were grown. In fact, the area contained ten sugar mills, five rum distilleries and a workforce consisting of 607 enslaved Africans and 131 'free' people of colour. Owners of the estates comprised of 19 families (64 whites), including the Dumas, Noel, Dert, Mercie families.

In 1849, Lord Harris made the Carenage area into district into a ward. Also, a few years later in 1851, an inland postal service was inaugurated in Trinidad, making Carenage one of the first places to receive mail in the country. Carenage was also one of first areas to set up primary schools in the country.

Despite the area's popularity as a fairly prosperous agricultural region, the face of Carenage seemed to change by the 1870's becoming a poor fishing village, although many were still involved in agriculture. It was at this time that parish priest (or abbé) Antoine Poujade came to assist the poor and helped to erect a chapel and a statue of St. Peter overlooking what is now known as St. Peter's Bay.


Gros Islet (English: Large Island) is a community near the northern tip of the island country of Saint Lucia, in the Gros Islet Quarter. Originally a quiet fishing village, it has gone on to become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.

Settled by the Carib (and possibly Arawak), the area was first identified as Gros Islet in a French map from 1717. The community was a Roman Catholic parish, as the first priests who arrived on the island settled in the village in 1749.


https://www.diffordsguide.com/producers/174/st-lucia-distillers/history

Jun 1, 800

Fred Bruemmer

Arctic Memories

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Superb sea-mammal hunters, Thule-culture Inuit pursued and killed everything, from the small ringed seal to the giant bowhead whale, and, according to archaeologist Robert McGhee of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they had evolved "a technology more complex than that of any other preindustrial society, which allowed not only an economically efficient but also comfortable way of life throughout arctic North America."

The Inuit's cold-adapted culture did not reach a state of near- perfection until the arrival of the Thule-culture people, who moved eastward from Alaska about A.D. 800, and within less than 200 years spread across most of the North American Arctic, displacing or absorbing the Dorset people. 


Superb sea-mammal hunters, Thule-culture Inuit pursued and killed everything, from the small ringed seal to the giant bowhead whale, and, according to archaeologist Robert McGhee of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, they had evolved "a technology more complex than that of any other preindustrial society, which allowed not only an economically efficient but also comfortable way of life throughout arctic North America."


 The Thule Inuit invented, perfected, and passed on to Inuit of historic times such a plethora of specialized tools and hunting equipment that the late James A. Ford of the American Museum of Natural History described them as "gadget burdened. 


The tool kit, for instance, used by Inuit not long ago to hunt seals at their agloos, the snow-covered breathing holes through the ice, consisted of about forty items, from the thin, slightly curved bone probe to determine the shape of the agloo, to tutereark, the piece of thick caribou winter fur on which the hunter stood so that no sound would warn the seal of his presence. 


The Inuit achieved this broad-ranging yet highly specialized Arctic material culture against what seem insuperable odds. Not only was their land exceedingly cold, hostile, and barren, it was also poor in those raw materials most societies have found essential. Metal was rare: meteoric iron, brittle and hard to work, was found in the Cape York region of northwest Greenland, and native copper in a few areas of the central Canadian Arctic. Driftwood was abundant along Alaska's coast and east past the Mackenzie River delta; it was rare in the eastern Arctic and virtually nonexistent in the central Arctic. That left stone, ice, snow, and sod as the most readily available and most widely used materials that the land and the sea provided. Infinitely more important were the materials they obtained from the animals they killed: bone, horn, baleen, antlers, teeth, ivory, furs, skins, sinews, and intestinal tissues.

Mar 2, 1578

Fred Bruemmer

Arctic Memories

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

"What is the most important thing in life?" He reflected for a while, then smiled and said: "Seals, for without them we could not live." Seal meat and fat, raw or cooked, was the main food of most Inuit and their sled dogs. The high-calorie blubber gave strength, warmth, and endurance to the people; it heated them from within.

After two hours, I had run out of poetry and patience. After three hours, I felt stiff, cold, and exhausted. The total lack of movement, the absence of any stimuli, grated on my nerves. After six hours, I gave up. I was cold, creaky, cranky, and intensely annoyed with myself, but that was about as much as I could take. Yet the Inuit did this nearly every day for ten to fifteen hours, and sometimes they got a seal and often they did not. Their concentration was total, their patience endless, for to Inuit (and polar bears) the seal was everything. I once asked Inuterssuaq of the Polar Inuit, "What is the most important thing in life?" He reflected for a while, then smiled and said: "Seals, for without them we could not live." 


George Best, captain and chronicler of Martin Frobisher's 1578 expedition to Baffin Island, said of the Inuit: "These people hunte for their dinners... even as the Beare." Inuit and polar bear do, in fact, use similar seal-hunting methods. Both wait with infinite patience at agloos, hoping for seals to surface. 


In late spring and early summer, seals bask upon the ice, and Inuit and polar bears synchronize their patient stalk with the sleep- wake rhythm of the seals. Typically, a seal sleeps for a minute or so, wakes, looks carefully all around to make certain no enemy is near, and then, satisfied that all is safe, falls asleep for another minute or two. The moment the seal slumps in sleep, the bear advances. The instant the seal looks up, the bear freezes into immobility, camouflaged by its yellowish-white fur. At 20 yards (18 m) the bear pounces, a deadly blur across the ice, and grabs and kills the seal. 


In the eastern Arctic, Inuit stalk a seal on the ice hidden behind a portable hunting screen, now of white cloth, formerly of bleached seal or caribou skin. In the central Arctic, Inuit do not use the screen. Instead they employ a method known to Inuit from Siberia to Greenland: they approach the seal by pretending to be a seal. They slither across the snow while the seal sleeps. When it wakes, the hunter stops and makes seal-like movements. To successfully impersonate a seal, a hunter told me, "you have to think like a seal." It is a hunt that requires great skill and endurance. They hunted seals at their agloos, they stalked them with screens on the ice. They waited for them at the floe edge and they harpooned them from kayaks. 


They hunted seals in fall on ice so thin it bent beneath the hunter's weight. They hunted them in the bluish darkness of the winter night, and they invented and perfected an entire arsenal of ingenious weapons and devices to hunt the seal. For, to Inuit, the seal was life, and their greatest goddess was Sedna, mother of seals and whales. 


A few inland groups lived nearly exclusively on caribou. The Mackenzie Delta Inuit are beluga hunters. Many Inuit of the Bering Sea and Bering Strait region live primarily on walrus. In Greenland and Labrador, Inuit hunted harp seals and hooded seals (the Polar Inuit drum Masautsiaq made for me as a farewell present is covered with the throat membrane of a hooded seal). But, for most Inuit, two seal species were of truly vital importance: the large bearded seal that weighs up to 600 pounds (270 kg), and the smaller - up to 180 pounds (81 kg) - but numerous ringed seal. These two seals were the basis of human life in the Arctic. 


I spent the spring of 1975 with the walrus hunters of Little Diomede Island in Bering Strait, between Alaska and Siberia. Among our crew was Tom, Jr., or Junior as everyone called him, the eleven-year-old son of Tom Menadelook, captain of the large walrus-skin-covered umiak, the traditional hunting boat of the Diomeders. On one of our trips into the pack ice, Junior shot his first seal. His father was typically gruff and curt, but we could see that he was pleased and proud. The crew made much of the boy and he glowed in their praise. That night, his mother, Mary Menadelook, cut the seal into many pieces, and following ancient custom, the boy took meat to all the households in the village, including to my shack, thus symbolically feeding us all. He was a man now, a provider, who shared in traditional Inuit fashion. 


Seal meat and fat, raw or cooked, was the main food of most Inuit and their sled dogs. The high-calorie blubber gave strength, warmth, and endurance to the people; it heated them from within. Rendered into seal oil, it burned in their semicircular soapstone lamps, cooked their meals, heated their homes, and, most importantly, melted fresh-water ice or snow into drinking water. Lack of blubber meant hunger, icy, dark homes, and excruciating thirst. Although Inuit were hardy and inured to cold, and dressed in superb fur clothing, their high-calorie, high-protein meat-fat diet also helped them to withstand the rigors of winter, for it raised their basal metabolic rate by 20 to 40 percent. Fortunately for the Inuit, blubber is a beneficial fat. Scientists were fascinated that Inuit who, a recent study says, "traditionally obtained about 40 percent of their calories from fat," had, in the past, no heart disease because their diet "although high in fat, is low in saturated fat.. and that presumably explains their freedom from disease." 


Seal oil, in the past, was stored in sealskin pokes and kept in stone caches, safe from arctic foxes, for spring and summer use. At Bathurst Inlet, Ekalun once showed me a great, solitary stone pillar, too sheer and high for bears or foxes to climb, upon which, in the past, Inuit had stored pokes of oil (they used a sled as a ladder to climb to the top). Even now, after decades of disuse, the distinctive, cloying smell of ancient seal oil clung to the pillar. 


The Inuit of Little Diomede eat seal oil with nearly all their meals. When they have to go to hospital in Nome or Anchorage, they take a bottle of seal oil along, because without it, they say, "food just doesn't taste right." Seal oil is their main preservative: they store in it the thousands of murre eggs they collect in summer, and bags of greens - and both keep reasonably fresh for about a year. They even had a type of chewing gum made of solidified seal oil and willow catkins, and a mixture of whipped blubber and cloudberries is known in Alaska as "Eskimo ice cream."

Dec 1, 1778

John Rollo

Observations on the Diseases Which Appeared in the Army at St. Lucia in 1778 and 1779. To Which Are Prefixed Remarks, Calculated to Assist in Explaining the Treatment of Those Diseases. With an Appendix, Containing a Short Address to Military Gentlemen on the Means of Preserving Health in the West Indies

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Dr Rollo, who later recommended a meat diet, writes 20 years earlier while stationed in St Lucia, that the civilized town Carenage with sugar production had far greater disease than the fishing village of Gros Islet and attributes it to a difference in diet.


Observations on the Diseases Which Appeared in the Army at St. Lucia in 1778 and 1779. To Which Are Prefixed Remarks, Calculated to Assist in Explaining the Treatment of Those Diseases. With an Appendix, Containing a Short Address to Military Gentlemen on the Means of Preserving Health in the West Indies 


in the fourth chapter the author describes the situations of the island, in which the men specified in the table were fixed, and endeavours to determine which are the most healthy. For this purpoSe he gives a comparative view of the health of the natives compared with that of the troops. 


He observes, that "at Carenage-town the People are:

  • short-lived, 

  • have annual attacks of fever, 

  • yellow and meagre countenances, 

  • small legs, except when eedematous, 

  • so that they have the appearance of persons worn out by disease. 

At Gros Met, we are told:

  •  the inhabitants live longer,

  • are not fo subject to disease, at least not the same degree or duration,

  •  and that they are fuller in the face,

  •  and more hearty.

At Souffrir the inhabitants have:

  •  cheerful countenances, 

  • and nearly in a state of health with those of Gros Islet, 

but this, our author thinks, may be attributed to a better diet rather than situation. "


On the extensive plain to windward of this place very few diseases appear, and they are mostly internments : the countenances here of the women, of the children, and even of the men, have some degree of resemblance to those of the European, the female has the red on her cheek, and the child has all the marks of health.


http://www.trinbagopan.com/Townsandvillages/Carenage2.html


Carenage, formerly known as Le Carenage, is one of the most popular bays located in west Trinidad. This bay, which is a famous sea bathing and liming area, got its name out of the practice of "careening", or cleaning out the waste materials in sea vessels, which was carried out in the area for centuries.

Initially, Le Carenage was the name given to the river flowing into this bay as well as the valley were the river flowed.

The Carenage valley, possibly because of its extremely fertile soils was essentially an agricultural area where crops sugar-cane, cotton and coffee were grown. In fact, the area contained ten sugar mills, five rum distilleries and a workforce consisting of 607 enslaved Africans and 131 'free' people of colour. Owners of the estates comprised of 19 families (64 whites), including the Dumas, Noel, Dert, Mercie families.


https://www.diffordsguide.com/producers/174/st-lucia-distillers/history


Gros Islet (English: Large Island) is a community near the northern tip of the island country of Saint Lucia, in the Gros Islet Quarter. Originally a quiet fishing village, it has gone on to become one of the more popular tourist destinations in the country.[3]

Settled by the Carib (and possibly Arawak), the area was first identified as Gros Islet in a French map from 1717.[4] The community was a Roman Catholic parish, as the first priests who arrived on the island settled in the village in 1749.[5]


Who were the Carib? - Possibly a carnivore population. 


The Carib Indians were primarily fishing people. They took to sea in their long canoes to catch fish, crabs, and other seafood. Hunters also shot birds and small game. In some Carib communities, farming was an important food source, with cassava, beans, squash, and peppers being grown. Other Carib groups did little farming and acquired peppers and cassava through trade or raiding.

Mar 10, 1794

David Thompson's narrative of his explorations in western America, 1784-1812 / edited by J.B. Tyrrell

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

David Thompson: While exploring the Kazan river, in 1794, I encountered a tribe of Eskimo who live on its banks and rarely visit the salt water. They subsist chiefly on the meat of the caribou, which they kill with their spears in great numbers.

The Esquimaux are a people with whom we are very little acquainted, although in a manner surrounding us, they live wholly on the sea coast, which they possess from the gulph of the St. Lawrence, round the shores of Labrador to Hudsons Straits, these Straits and adjacent Islands, to Hudson's Bay, part of it's east shores ; but on the west side of this Bay, only north of Churchill River, thence northward and westward to the Coppermine River ; thence to the McKenzie and westward to Icy Cape, the east side of Behring's Strait. Along this immense line of sea coast they appear to have restricted themselves to the sea shores,* their Canoes give them free access to ascend the Rivers, yet they never do, every part they frequent is wholly destitute of growing Trees, their whole dependence for fuel and other purposes is on drift wood, of which, fortunately there is plenty. The whole is a dreary, monotonous coast of Rock and Moss without Hills or Mountains to the McKenzie River, thence westward the Mountains are near the shore. In the latter end of February and the months of March and April, from the mouth of the River seaward for several miles the Seals are numerous, and have many holes in the ice through which they come up : how these holes are made in the apparent solid ice, I never could divine ; to look into them, they appear like so many wells of a round form, with sides of smooth solid ice and their size seldom large enough to admit two seals to pass together. 


The Seals do not come up on the ice before nine or ten in the morning as the weather may be, and go down between two and three in the afternoon ; they are always on the watch, scarce a minute passes without some one lifting his head, to see if any danger is near from the Bear or Man, apparently their only enemies. Three of us several times made an attempt to kill one, or more ; but to no purpose, however wounded they had always life enough to faU into the ice hole and we lost them ; and I have not heard of any Seal being killed on the spot by a Ball. The Esquimaux who live to the northward of us kill these animals for food and clothing in a quiet and sure manner : the Hunter is armed with a Lance headed with Bone or Iron, the latter always preferred : the handle of which, sometimes is the length of twenty yards (measured) made of pieces of drift larch wood, neatly fitted to each other, bound together with sinew, the handle is shortened, or lengthened, as occasion may require. The Esquimaux Hunter in the evening, when the Seals are gone to the sea, examines their holes, the places where they lie, and having selected the hole, best adapted to his purpose, early in the morning before the seals come up, goes to the ice hole he has selected, on the south side of which he places his Lance, the handle directed northward, the point of the Lance close to the hole, for the seals He on the north side of the ice hole, and directing his Lance to the spot [where] the Seals have been lying, having firmly laid the helve of his lance, he retires to the end of it, and there hides himself behind some broken ice, which if he does not find to his purpose, he brings pieces of ice to make the shelter he requires. Lying flat on his beUy he awaits with patience the coming up of the Seals ; the first Seal takes his place at the north edge of the hole, this is also the direction in which the Lance is laid ; the other seals, two, or three more, are close on each side, or behind ; if the Seal is not in the direct line of the Lance, which is sometimes the case, he gently twists the handle of the Lance until it is directly opposite to the heart of the Seal ; still he waits with patience until the Seal appears asleep ; when with all his skill and strength he drives the Lance across the hole (near three feet) into the body of the Seal, which, finding itself wounded, and trying to throw itself into the ice hole, which the handle of the lance prevents, only aids the wound ; the hunter keeps the handle firm, and goes on hands and knees to near the hole, where he quietly waits the death of the seal ; he then drags the seal from the hole, takes out his lance and carefully washes the blood from it. When the hunter shows himself all the seals for some distance around dive into the ice holes, and do not come up for several minutes ; this gives time to the Esquimaux to place his lance at another hole, and await the seals return, and thus he sometimes kills two of them in one day but this is not often, as the weather is frequently stormy and cloudy. 


The Esquimaux are of a square, plump make, few of them exceed five feet eight inches in height, the general stature is below this size, and the women are in proportion to the men, their features though broad are not unpleasing, with a tendency to ruddy, they appear cheerful and contented, they are supple active and strong ; from the land, in the open season, they have berries, and a few reindeer, but it is to the sea they look for their subsistence : the sea birds, the seal, morse, beluga, and the whale ; living on these oily foods, they are supposed not to be clean, but the fact is, they are as cleanly as people living as they do, and without soap can be expected [to be], all their cooking utensils are in good order. 


In summer part of them dwell in tents made of the dressed skins of the reindeer, these are pitched on the gravel banks, and kept very neat, they make no fire in them to prevent [them] being soiled with smoke, which is made near the tent. The salmon and meat of the reindeer they cure by smoke of drift wood of which they have plenty. They are very industrious and ingenious, being for eight months of the year exposed to the glare of the snow, their eyes become weak ; at the age of forty years almost every man has an impaired sight. The eyesight of the women is less injured at this age. They make neat goggles of wood with a narrow slit, which are placed on the eyes, to lessen the light. They all use Darts, Lances, Bows and Arrows, as weapons of defence, and for hunting ; their Darts and Lances are made of drift Larch wood, headed with bone of the leg of the Rein Deer,^ or a piece of iron, the latter preferred, and the length of the Dart is proportioned to it's intended use — for Birds, the Seal, the Beluga, Whale or the Morse ; * to the Dart or Lance for the three latter, a large bladder made of sealskins, and blown full of air is attached by a strong line of neatly twisted sinew. This not only shews the place of the wounded animal but soon tires him, [so] that he becomes an easy prey, though sometimes with risque to the Hunter and Canoe. 


In their conduct to each other they are sociable, friendly, and of a cheerful temper. But we are not sufficiently acquainted with their language to say much more ; in their traffic with us they are honest and friendly. They are not of the race of the north american Indians, but of european descent. Nothing can oblige an Indian to work at anything but stern necessity ; whereas the Esquimaux is naturally industrious, very ingenious, fond of the comforts of life so far as they can attain them, always cheerful, and even gay ; it is true that in the morning, when he is about to embark in his shell of a Canoe, to face the waves of the sea, and the powerful animals he has to contend with, for food and clothing for himself and family, he is for many minutes very serious, because he is a man of reflection, knows the dangers to which he is exposed, but steps into his canoe, and bravely goes through the toil and dangers of the day. 


*^ In a general way, this statement that the Eskimo Hve exclusively on the sea coast is correct. Nevertheless, while exploring the Kazan river, which flows into Chesterfield Inlet, in 1894, I encountered a tribe of Eskimo who live on its banks and rarely visit the salt water. They subsist chiefly on the meat of the caribou, which they kill with their spears in great numbers, and from the skins of the caribou they make their clothing and the coverings for their kayaks or small canoes.

Jan 5, 1802

The Savage Country

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

The full importance of pemmican is understood as a vital survival food that could last "through a winter's scarcity of game and fish. It was his staff of life in a way that bread never was in more civilized parts of the world." Two pounds of pemmican was worth eight pounds of buffalo meat.

URL
PDF

The Nor' wester on the march was faced with an entirely different problem of food supply. There was remarkably little game along the Northwest Road, and not much else that could be bought from the Indians en route. Once the plains were gained, hunters were sent out to shoot buffalo; but the brigades that continued on to the northern posts could not live off the land; they had to carry their rations with them in already overloaded canoes. 


The answer to this problem was lyed corn, wild rice and pemmican. The corn, grown by the Ottawa and Saulteur around Sault Ste. Marie, was processed at Detroit by boiling it in lye water, which removed the outer husk. It was then washed and dried, and was ready for use. One quart of lyed corn called hominy by the Americans was boiled for two hours over a moderate fire in a gallon of water. Soon after it came to a boil, two ounces of melted suet were added. This caused the corn to split open and form "a pretty thick pudding." Alexander Mackenzie maintained that, with a little salt, it was a wholesome, palatable, easily digestible dish. A quart of it, he said, would keep a canoeman going for twenty four hours. 


Mackenzie also observed that lyed corn was about the cheapest food the Concern could give its men, a voyageur's daily allowance costing only tenpence. And the elder Henry wryly commented that, since it was fare that nobody but a French-Canadian would put up with, the monopoly of the fur trade was probably in the North West Company's hands forever! 


Indian corn and grease possibly supplemented by a few fish, game birds, eggs, and Indian dogs along the way took the brigades as far as Rainy Lake. Here wild rice replaced the corn as far as Lac Winipic. After that, pemmican sustained the western brigades until they reached the buffalo plains and fresh meat; but the northern canoes had to depend on pemmican all the way to their wintering stations. The provisioning of Alexander Henry's canoes, from Lake Superior to the Saskatchewan, would be typical: 


At 4 P.M. I arrived at Fort Vermilion, having been two months on my voyage from Fort William, with a brigade of I1 canoes, loaded with 28 pieces each, and manned by five men and one woman. Our expenditure of provisions for each canoe during the voyage was: two bags of corn, 1½ bushels each, and 15 pounds of grease, to Lac la Pluie; two bags of wild rice, 1½ bushels each, and 10 pounds of grease to Bas de la Rivière Winipic; four bags of pemmican of go pounds each to serve until we came among the buffalo generally near the Monte, or at farthest the Elbow of the Saskatchewan. 


This, in a few words, was the formula that made possible the long voyages of the fur brigades, which must often be accomplished with hairbreadth precision between the spring thaw and the fall freeze-up. The North West Company's network of hundreds of canoe routes and more than a hundred forts, scattered over half the continent, could never have functioned without corn, rice and pemmican. And of the three, pemmican was perhaps the most important. 


The Nor westers got the idea, as they did so many, from the Indians. Or perhaps it should be said that Peter Pond dit since he, before anyone else, realized the logistical importance of pemmican and made a systematic use of it. Where the elder Henry and the Frobishers had failed in early attempts to reach the rich Athabasca country, Pond succeeded; and the key to his success is found in his own words: "Provisions, not only for the winter season but for the course of the next summer, must be provided, which is dry'd meat, pounded to a powder and mixed with buffaloes greese, which preserves it in warm seasons." In other words, pemmican. 


Almost every trader, from Peter Pond down, described pemmican, and how it was manufactured; but none so well as David Thompson. It was made, he explained, of the lean and fleshy parts of the buffalo, dried, smoked, and pounded fine. In that state, it was called beat meat. To it was added the fat of the buffalo. There were two kinds: that from the inside of the animal, called "hard fat" or grease; and that which lay along the backbone in large flakes and, when melted, resembled butter in softness and sweetness. 


The best pemmican, Thompson tells us, was made from twenty pounds each of soft and hard fat, slowly melted together and well mixed with fifty pounds of beat meat. It was stored in bags made of buffalo hide, with the hair on the outside, called taurenut. When they could be obtained, dried berries, and sometimes maple sugar, were mixed with the pemmican. "On the great Plains," Thompson wrote, "there is a shrub bearing a very sweet berry of dark blue color, much sought after. Great quantities are dried by the Natives; in this state the berries are as sweet as the best currants, and as much as possible mixed to make Pemmican.


Properly made and stored, the ninety-pound bags of pemmican would keep for years. Post masters took great pride in the quality of the product they turned out. But sometimes, through nobody's fault, it went sour, and great quantities had to be thrown to the post dogs. Often, as in the case of dried meat, mold formed; but that, the traders cheerfully agreed, only improved the flavor. 


Pemmican could be hacked off the piece and eaten in its natural state; or it could be boiled up with corn or rice to make a highly nourishing and not unpalatable kind of stew. Whereas a daily allowance of eight pounds of fresh meat was required to sustain a man, two pounds, or even a pound and a half of pemmican would do. A better emergency ration for men in a cold climate has never been developed. So vital was pemmican indeed to the North West Company's system of communications that a highly specialized organization was set up to make and distribute it. On the prairies were built the famous "pemmican posts" Fort Alexandria, Fort George, Fort Vermilion, Fort de la Montée whose principal business was not pelts but provisions, chiefly pemmican, for the canoe brigades and the hungry posts in the forest belt. Archibald Norman McLeod gives us a glimpse of the activities at Alexandria: "I got the last Pounded meat we have made into Pimican, viz. 30 bags of 90 lb., so that we now have 62 bags of that Species of provisions of the above weight. I likewise got nine kegs filled with grease, or Tallow rather, each keg nett 70 lb." 


Looking into his storehouse in January, Duncan McGillivray noted that he had 8000 pounds of pounded meat, with enough fat to make it up into pemmican sufficient, he added, to "answer the expectations of the Gentn. of the Northern Posts, who depend on us for this necessary article* in April, he made his pounded meat and grease into two hundred bags of pemmican. 


For one year, 1807-1808, Alexander Henry listed the returns from his four Lower Red River posts as only 60 packs of furs, but 334 bags of pemmican and 48 kegs of grease; a striking statistical sidelight on the importance of beat meat and grease in the economy of the North West Company.


 Getting the huge production of pemmican from the prairie posts to where it was needed was a major problem in logistics: and the Nor' westers solved it with their usual flair for organization. Besides the posts that specialized in making pemmican, certain others principally Cumberland House and Fort Bas de la Rivière were established at strategic spots to distribute it. To Cumberland House, at the juncture of the Saskatchewan and the waterways leading to Athabasca, the pemmican posts sent hundreds of taureaux in skin canoes and roughly built boats. And there the vast store of shaggy buffalo-hide bags was rationed out to the Great Northern brigades for the posts in the forest Fort Chipewyan, Fort de I'Isle, Fort Resolution, Fort Providence where the supply of pemmican made of deer and bear meat was both scanty and uncertain. The pemmican from the Red River and Assiniboine posts was distributed from Bas de la Rivière. And later on, Fort Esperance on the Qu'Appelle became the North West Company's chief depot for rushing emergency supplies to posts in distress. 


Wherever he was stationed, and however long the march he must make to his wintering grounds, the Nor wester could usually depend on his supply of pemmican to see him to journey's end and, if necessary, through a winter's scarcity of game and fish. It was his staff of life in a way that bread never was in more civilized parts of the world. It was often his last defense against the forces of famine that hung, like wolves on the trail of a wounded caribou, about every trading post. And he never spoke of it with anything but respect.

Jul 8, 1824

Fred Bruemmer

Arctic Memories

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

The Sadlermiut were "discovered" in the summer of 1824 by the explorer Captain G.F. Lyon of the Royal Navy. 150 years later, a visit to this island found "Ashore were ancient stone houses, man-high cairns, box-like graves built of large flat stones, and everywhere masses of bleached bones of caribou, walrus, bowhead whale, and seal." The Sadlermiut were killed off by infectious diseases by 1902.

In 1967, I lived some months at Coral Harbour on Southampton Island in northern Hudson Bay and often traveled with Tommy Nakoolak, then, at sixty-two, patriarch of the island's sizable Nakoolak clan. Of Knud Rasmussen, the great Danish ethnologist, it was said that he was the only man known who collected old women. They, of course, were the repositories of the ancient tales he loved and recorded. Similarly, whenever possible, I lived and traveled with older Inuit who told and taught me many things the lore, the legends, the skills of their people. 


Tommy Nakoolak was small and wiry, kind and considerate, and he owned a Peterhead boat, the Tereglu (the word for a baby bearded seal), which he handled as if it were a racing yawl. One day along Coats Island, south of Southampton Island, he spotted a herd of walruses on a rocky promontory. "You want pictures?" he asked, and when I said yes, he swung the boat around and headed full speed for the rocks. He sheered past them so closely, I tensed instinctively for the coming crash, but Tommy only smiled. Like many old-time Inuit, he had an astounding geographical memory and knew every rock and ridge along hundreds of miles of coast. 


One day while his sons were hunting caribou on Coats Island, Tommy said: "Come, I'll show you something." He took the Tereglu to a secluded bay near Cape Pembroke. Ashore were ancient stone houses, man-high cairns, box-like graves built of large flat stones, and everywhere masses of bleached bones of caribou, walrus, bowhead whale, and seal. "This is where the Sadlermiut lived," said Tommy. A mysterious, long-isolated Stone Age people, the Sadlermiut were briefly known to the outside world and then all were killed by a whaler-brought disease in the winter of 1902. They may even have been Tunit, the powerful Dorset-culture people. Extinct everywhere else for 800 years, they had found a final refuge on these isolated islands. (The people who now live on Southampton Island are descendants of mainland Inuit brought by whalers and traders to the island to replace the extinct Sadlermiut.) 


The Sadlermiut were "discovered" in the summer of 1824 by the explorer Captain G.F. Lyon of the Royal Navy. He anchored his ship, HMS Griper, off Cape Pembroke. From the camp which Tommy Nakoolak was showing me, a man approached the Griper, riding on a most peculiar craft. It consisted of "three inflated seal- skins, connected most ingeniously by blown intestines, so that his vessel was extremely buoyant." The man's legs dangled in the water while he propelled this strange float toward the ship with a narrow- bladed paddle made of whale bone. The poor man had never seen other humans before and he was afraid: "his teeth chattered and himself and seal-skins trembled in unison. 


Lyon went ashore. The people were shy but friendly, of "mild manners, quiet speech, and as grateful for kindness, as they were anxious to return it." The men wore pants of polar-bear fur; their mittens were the skins of murres, feathers inside. The women were slightly tattooed, and "their hair was twisted into a short club, which hung over each temple." The men's topknots were even more impressive: "Each man had an immense mass of hair as large as the head of a child, rolled into the form of a ball, and projecting from the rise of the forehead." 


Once the Sadlermiut had been numerous. At Native Point on Southampton Island, the archaeologist Henry B. Collins of the Smithsonian Institution found, in 1954, "the largest aggregation of old Eskimo house ruins in the Canadian Arctic." But whalers began to stop at the islands and contact with another world was fatal to the long-isolated people. When the whaling captain George Comer visited Southampton Island in 1896, only seventy Sadlermiut were left. Comer admired the strength and courage of these "fearless people" who had only stone-tipped harpoons and spears: "For an Eskimo in his frail kayak to attempt to capture a [50-ton/ 45-tonne] whale with the primitive implements which they manufactured meant great courage. 


In the fall of 1902, the whaler Active stopped at Southampton Island. One sailor was sick; he may have had typhus or typhoid. Sadlermiut visited the ship and took the disease back to their village. That winter the last Sadlermiut died in lonely agony upon their island. Collins studied their house ruins and graves in 1954 and 1955 and "found evidence that the Sadlermiut descended from the Dorsets - that they were in fact the last survivors of the Dorset culture."

Jun 3, 1888

Fred Bruemmer

Arctic Memories

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

These Mackenzie Delta Inuit took all that a bounteous nature offered, but the beluga large, easily killed, and abundant - was their favorite prey. "Eskimo whale camps will soon be no more," and Nuligak wrote in the 1950s that "the Inuit eat white man's food nowadays."

THE BELUGA HUNTERS IN PREHISTORIC TIMES - A MERE 200 YEARS AGO - THE MACKENZIE River delta and adjacent coasts were the richest, most populous region in what is now the Canadian Arctic. About 30,000 bowhead whales summered in the shallow Beaufort Sea, 50-ton (45-tonne) feasts for hunters skillful and daring enough to kill them. There were Dall's sheep in the mountains, moose in the valleys, musk-oxen on the tundra, and in summer vast herds of caribou on the wind-swept coastal plains. 


Seals were common. Great polar bears patrolled the ice, and fat Barren Ground grizzlies patrolled the land. Here were the breeding grounds of much of North America's waterfowl: the myriad tundra lakes were speckled with ducks and geese, loons and swans. Rivers and lakes were rich in fish: char and inconnu, and immense shoals of herring and fat whitefish. 


Most important to the Inuit of this region were the milky-white beluga whales that arrived each year in large pods in late June at the edge of the Mackenzie estuary and remained for six to seven weeks in its shallow, sun-warmed bays and inlets, where they were relatively easy to hunt. The people were the Mackenzie Inuit, the "Beluga Hunters," as archaeologist Robert McGhee of the Canadian Museum of Civilization has called them. When he dug trenches through the thick refuse layers at Kittigazuit, the main village of the Mackenzie Inuit, "87 percent [of all bones] were of beluga." These Inuit took all that a bounteous nature offered, but the beluga large, easily killed, and abundant - was their favorite prey. 


While in other parts of the Canadian North the average population density was one person to every 250 square miles (648 km2), 2,500 to 4,000 Mackenzie Inuit lived in settlements near the river mouth. Inuit camps, specks of humanity scattered across the vastness of the Arctic, were usually home to a few families, perhaps 50 people. Kittigazuit, the main village of the Beluga Hunters, had a summer population of 800 to 1,000 people. 


Among the Inuit at Kittigazuit at the turn of this century was an orphan boy named Nuligak who lived with his crippled grandmother. "Because I was an orphan and a poor one at that, my mind was always alert to the happenings around me. Once my eyes had seen something, it was never forgotten." He became a famous hunter and, in old age, wrote I, Nuligak, the story of his life, wonderfully vivid glimpses of a long-vanished world. 


"The Inuit of those days [about 1900, when Nuligak was five years old lived on game and fish only, and fished and hunted on a grand scale." The 200-yard (823-m)-long Kittigazuit beach was hardly large enough for all the kayaks drawn up there," and the moment belugas were spotted "a swarm of kayaks was launched. At the great whale hunts I remember there was such a large number of kayaks that when the first had long disappeared from view, more and more were just setting out... Clever hunters killed five, seven belugas, and after the hunt the shore was covered with whale carcasses... Once I heard elders say that three hundred whales had been taken. 


The great driftwood racks and stages were packed with drying meat, sealskin pokes were filled with fat, ample food for "kaivitivik, the time of dancing and rejoicing which began with the departure of the sun and ended with its return," Nuligak recalled. "In those days the Inuit could make marvelous things": puppets and toy animals, activated by baleen strings and springs, that hopped and danced across the floor of their great winter meeting hall, while Nuligak and the other children watched in wonder. "There was such an abundance of meals, games, and things to admire that these sunless weeks sped by as if they had been only a few days. 


Until 1888, the Mackenzie Inuit had little contact with the outside world. That year the southern whalers came and the ancient, unchanging world of the Beluga Hunters collapsed in agony, despair, disease, and death. "Aboriginal Mackenzie Eskimo culture could probably be considered to have become extinct between 1900 and 1910," Robert McGhee noted with scientific detachment. 


In 1888, whalers reached the Beaufort Sea, last sanctuary of the rapidly declining bowhead whales. Six years later, 2,000 people wintered at Herschel Island, west of the Delta, soon known as the "Sodom of the North." It was the largest "town' in northwestern Canada, inhabited, according to a Nome, Alaska, newspaper report, "by demons of debauchery and cruelty," the scene, according to horrified missionaries, of "bacchanalian orgies."


Nuligak's memories are less lurid. He remembered the whalers more as friends than as fiends. "White men and Inuit played games together, as well as hunting side by side. We played baseball and wrestled. We danced in the Eskimo fashion to the sound of many drums. 


Unintentionally, though, the whalers brought death to the long-isolated Inuit. They needed great amounts of fresh meat. Musk-oxen vanished from the land. Few bowhead whales remained. In 1914, the Royal North-West Mounted Police reported that caribou were virtually extinct in the Mackenzie region. By then, the Beluga Hunters, too, were nearing extinction. 


As the plague had ravaged medieval Europe, measles and smallpox epidemics wiped out the Beluga Hunters, who lacked immunity to southern diseases. Of 3,000 people, fewer than 100 survived. In 1900, nearly 1,000 Inuit camped at Kittigazuit. In 1906, a single family remained in this village of death and decay. 


Into the vacuum created by the demise of the Mackenzie people flowed Inuit from as far west as Alaska's Seward Peninsula, and even Yuit and Chukchi from Siberia. Traders and trappers came from the south. And whalers from all over the world and from every social stratum - the dregs of San Francisco's slums and a Count Bülow, a remote cousin of the chancellor of the German Reich; Spanish- speaking Africans; Chinese coolies; and people from the Polynesian Islands - - settled in the region and "went native." One day in the town of Inuvik an Inuk girl, a sociology student, asked me: "Where are you from originally?" I told her I was Baltic German, born in Riga, Latvia. "Well, for heaven's sake!" she exclaimed. "My grandfather came from Riga. 


These people, then, part Inuit, part everyone, became the new Beluga Hunters, following, to some extent, the millennial customs and traditions of the nearly extinct Mackenzie Inuit. The changes wrought through the coming of the whalers were enormous, but some things had not changed: the coming of the belugas, the need for food, the ancient rhythm of camp life through the seasons. 


Even the remnants of this ancient whaling culture seemed fated to fade away. Professor Vagn Flyger of the University of Maryland, who studied the Beluga Hunters in 1961 and 1962, predicted confidently that "Eskimo whale camps will soon be no more," and Nuligak wrote in the 1950s that "the Inuit eat white man's food nowadays." In the late 1970s, the oil companies came, their made- in-Japan module headquarters, with gleaming offices and dining rooms, with swimming pools and cinemas, squatting on the tundra, with their spacecraft-like drilling rigs far out in the Beaufort Sea, all backed by multibillion-dollar exploration budgets. Yet, "the old way of life" persisted. When I went to join the Beluga Hunters in the summer of 1985, twenty-five families from the towns of Tuktoyaktuk, Inuvik, and Aklavik had "returned to the land," to ancient camps along the coast where Inuit had lived and hunted belugas for thousands of years. "From time immemorial this has been our life," said Nuligak. 

Jan 1, 1894

Samuel Hearne

A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

The editor of Samuel Hearne's book travels over the Northern Canadian wilderness 123 years later after Hearne and finds the population had changed from Chipewyans to Eskimos who were dependent entirely on the caribou for food and clothing.

Being possessed of much more than the average amount of ability and enthusiasm, he was chosen by Moses Norton, the energetic Governor of Fort Prince of Wales, to go out with the Indians into the vast, and as far as that was then known, limitless, territory west of Hudson Bay, in order to find and prospect the place where the native copper had been found which the Indians often brought with them to the fort.


During the year preceding his departure on his first expedition, he had had an excellent opportunity to perfect himself in a knowledge of astronomical and geodetic work, for in the summer of 1768 the annual ship had brought William Wales, F.R.S., and Joseph Dymond from London, commissioned by the Royal Society to remain at Fort Prince of Wales throughout the ensuing year in order to observe the transit of Venus over the sun on the 3rd of June 1769.[2] They remained at the fort until the ship left again for London in August of the following year (1769). Mr. Wales was one of the foremost astronomers, mathematicians, and litterateurs of his age. Shortly after his return to England he was appointed to accompany Captain Cook on his voyage around the world in the Resolution in 1772-74, and again on his last voyage in 1776-79. His presence for more than a year among the little band of white men assembled at this remote fur-trading post on Hudson Bay must have had a helpful influence in preparing Hearne for his great explorations overland to the Arctic Ocean. This book is an account of three journeys which he undertook in rapid succession into the country west of Hudson Bay and north-west of Fort Prince of Wales in search of the fabled bed of copper ore, from which pure copper could be loaded directly into ships at trifling expense. In the first and second journeys he was obliged to turn back before reaching his destination, but in the third journey all difficulties were finally overcome, and he was taken to and shown the "mine" of copper.


It has been my good fortune to travel over parts of the same country through which Hearne had journeyed one hundred and twenty-three years before me, and into which no white man had ventured during the intervening time. The conditions which I found were just such as he describes, except that the inhabitants had changed. The Chipewyan Indians, whom he found occupying advantageous positions everywhere as far as the north end of Dubawnt Lake, had disappeared, and in their places the country had been occupied by scattered bands and families of Eskimos, who had almost forgotten the ocean shores of the north, from which they had come. They were depending entirely, for food and clothing, on the caribou, which they killed on the banks of the inland streams and lakes. Traces of old Indian encampments were seen in a few of the scattered groves that are growing along the banks of Dubawnt and Kazan Rivers, but these camps had evidently not been occupied for many years.[3]

Jan 1, 1906

Letters of the present rector of St. Peter's-by-the-Sea, of Sitka, the Reverend Henry H. Chapman.

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Eskimo natives had a range of cooking styles and mostly carnivorous diets but did not suffer from cancer until modern foods entered their diet.

In reply to a further query, the rector wrote again from Sitka on September 16, 1958. He confirmed that he had lived at Anvik all but three of the years between his birth in 1895 and his first journey in 1908 when he went out to become a graduate of Middlebury College, Vermont. “I returned to Anvik as a missionary in 1922 and lived there until 1948, except for furloughs and the four years I was in Fairbanks.

“The native people of the Anvik area are Athapaskans. During my youth the main parts of their food were meat (caribou, rabbits, grouse, waterfowl, beaver, porcupine, black bear and lynx) and fish (salmon, whitefish, shellfish, loche and lampreys). The loche has a large liver which is said to be even richer in vitamins than ordinary cod liver. The Indians also ate raw foods such as berries, wild rhubarb, and a root which they called ‘mouseberries’ because it was gathered and hoarded by field mice.

“They obtained fat from caribou, black bear, and beaver tails. The lampreys were rich in oil, which was highly prized. They also bought seal oil from the Eskimos. Even in my boyhood they supplemented their native diet with white man's food, including lard ...

“The usual way of cooking meat was either boiling or frying. As a boy I was once invited by a party of Indians to eat bear meat with them. It was boiled and well done ... I do not know that any flesh foods were eaten raw, except for dried fish ...”

Neither does the published literature on the forest Indians report that any flesh foods were customarily eaten raw by the forest Indians of Alaska or northern Canada. Indeed, the name “Eskimos” is believed by many to have been derived from an Algonquin expression meaning “they eat their meat raw.”

When I went down north along the Mackenzie, in 1906 and 1908, I now and then heard talk of how horrified the Athapaskans had been when they first saw white men of the Northwest Company and Hudson's Bay Company eating the customary British underdone roast meats. In 1910, when we met the Athapaskans northeast of Great Bear Lake — Dogribs, Slaves, and Yellowknives — we found that they were still mildly horrified to see the Hudson's Bay Company Canadian Joseph Hodgson and the Old Country British John Hornby and Cosmo Melvil, who were then living among them, eating rare caribou steaks and roasts.

In a presentation of evidence regarding the views of frontier doctors on the incidence of cancer, it is of consequence to make clear that early testimony regarding the rarity or absence of malignancies is as clear and strong for the forest Indian north as for the grassland Eskimo country. Some of the early medical missionaries — notably Dr. Hutton in Labrador — have inclined to credit a diet of raw flesh with that former absence of cancer in which they believed. To emphasize this point let me quote again Dr. Hutton's book Health Conditions (1925), Page 35:

“Some diseases common in Europe have no t come under my notice ... Of these diseases the most striking is cancer ... In this connection it may be noted that cookery holds a very secondary place in the preparation of food — most of the food is eaten raw ...”

If only Eskimos are considered, in relation to the alleged former absence of cancer, and of these only the Labradorians, then the logical deduction for one who believes nutrition to be fundamental in relation to malignancy, is that actual rawness of food may be the crucially important cancer-inhibiting factor. But the force of this logic diminishes as we go westward from Labrador, among the Eskimos. Without cancer's appearing at all, cooking grows steadily more important as we move west. From Dr. Hutton's and other accounts, the Labradorians, east of Hudson Bay, were the greatest raw-flesh eaters of the whole Eskimo world. West of the Bay the boiling of flesh increases; and inland from the Bay, among the Caribou Eskimos, the roasting of caribou supplements the boiling. At Coronation Gulf, near where Dr. Jenness and I spent the first years during which the Copper Eskimos ever associated closely with Europeans, the years 1910 to 1915, there was considerable summer use of roasting, though the winter cooking, if any, was by boiling. Among the Mackenzie Eskimos, as described from the 1860's by Father Emile Petitot and from the early 1900's by myself, boiling and roasting were both considerable. These methods were even a bit more common in northern Alaska, as described by John Simpson in the 1850's and Murdoch in the 1880's. In southwestern Alaska as described by Dr. Romig in the manuscript he submitted to our Encyclopedia Antarctica, for the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first one of the twentieth, the cooking of flesh foods reached its Eskimo high point.

Yet the mission testimony, starting from Labrador, remains equally clear, from east to west: the medical missionaries all looked for cancer, and they never found it among the “primitive,” though they did find it among the “modernized.”

Thus clarification is important for whoever expects a nutritional key to this Eskimo cancer situation. Among the Athapaska and western Eskimos cooking was hardly ever carried to the point of “well done,” or “boiled to pieces.” Instead the native meats resembled our fashionable roasts, which have a well-done layer on the outside, medium done just under that, and the center pink or red. And so it was with the forest Indians — at least with those Athapaskans from Great Bear Lake to just west of the Mackenzie, with whom I hunted and lived — though they insisted on some cooking, they were in practice as careful as Eskimo cooks to see that the centers of most pieces were pink.

To sum up the raw and cooked-food elements of northern medical missionary theorizing about cancer:

During the time when large numbers of non-Europeanized northern natives were allegedly free of cancer, there was little cooking of flesh foods beyond the degree which we call medium. Among grassland and coastal Eskimos raw flesh eating ranged from a great deal in northern Labrador to a good deal in southwestern Alaska. Only among forest Indians were raw flesh foods avoided, and even among these there was little use of overcooked flesh.

Vegetable foods, where eaten at all, were always raw, among prairie and woodland natives alike. Among Eskimos, vegetable foods were important only in the farthest west — along the west coast of Alaska, among the Aleutians, and along the south coast of Alaska. In the most northerly region from Baffin Island, Canada, to Point Barrow, Alaska, vegetable eating was negligible, except in time of famine. Among woodland Indians, vegetables were negligible with the Athapaskans from the west shore of Hudson Bay to beyond the Mackenzie. In Alaska the eating of raw vegetables by forest Indians increased westward along the northern belt and then increased still more southward, into the country of the Tlingit.

During the time when the medical missionaries reported cancer difficult or impossible to find among large numbers of primitive natives, there was no usual cooking of any vegetables, whether among grassland or forest natives. The cooking of vegetables is part of that Europeanization which is considered by some missionaries to be responsible for the introduction of cancer, or for the change from its being hard to find to its being impossible not to notice.

The European-style application of intense heat to food through frying was new to all northern North American natives.

May 2, 1906

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimos - Chapter 2

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Stefansson describes the dietary habits of the Mackenzie Valley population, in terms of their inability to grow much produce and their dependence upon meat and fish and especially fat in terms of preventing rabbit starvation.

There are many people in the Mackenzie district who have given me much valuable information about their country, the greater part of which , however, has to be omitted here, but few men perhaps know the country better than Father Giroux, formerly stationed at Arctic Red River but now in charge of Providence. He says it is true in the Mackenzie district, as it is among the Arctic Eskimo, that measles is the deadliest of all diseases. There have been several epidemics, so that it might be supposed that the most susceptible had been weeded out, and yet the last epidemic (1903) killed about one fifth of the entire population of the Mackenzie Valley . He had noticed also a distinct and universal difference in health between those who wear white men's clothing and who live in white men's houses, as opposed to those who keep the ancient customs in the matter of dress and dwellings. These same elements I have since found equally harmful among the Eskimo, although among them must be added the surely no less dangerous element, the white men's diet, which is no more suited to the people than white men's clothing or houses. 


Grains and vegetables of most kinds, and even strawberries, are successfully cultivated at Providence. North of that, the possible agricultural products get fewer and fewer, until finally the northern limit of successful potato growing is reached near Fort Good Hope, on the Arctic Circle. Potatoes are grown farther north, but they do not mature and are not of good quality. 


In certain things the Mackenzie district was more advanced the better part of a century ago than it is now; the explorers of Franklin's parties, for instance, found milk cows at every Hudson's Bay post and were able to get milk and cream as far north as the Arctic Circle and even beyond. At that time, too, every post had large stores of dried meat and pemmican, so that if you had the good-will of the Company you could always stock up with provisions anywhere. Now this is all changed. Game has become so scarce that it would be difficult for the Company, even if they tried, to keep large stores of meat on hand. The importation of foodstuffs from the outside, on the other hand, has not grown easy as yet, and it is therefore much more difficult to buy provisions now than it was in Franklin's time. The trading posts are located now exactly where Franklin found them, so that taking this into consideration, and the decrease of game all over the northern country, it is clear that exploration on such a plan as ours — that of living on the country —is more difficult now than it was a hundred years ago. Another element that makes the situation more risky is that while then you could count on finding Indians anywhere who could supply you with provisions, or at least give you information as to where game might be found, now there are so few of the Indians left alive , —and all of those left are so concentrated around the trading posts , —that you may go hundreds of miles without seeing a camp or a trail, where seventy-five or a hundred years ago you would have found the trails crossing each other and might have seen the camp smokes rising here and there. 


The food supplies of the different posts vary according to location . In general the trading stations are divided into "fish posts" and “meat posts.” Fort Smith is a typical meat post, for caribou are found in the neighborhood and moose also; and the Indians not only get meat enough for themselves and for the white men, but the fur traders even find the abundance of the meat supply a handicap in their business, - for the Indian who has plenty to eat does not trap so energetically as do others who must pay in fur for some of their food. Resolution, Hay River, and Providence, on the other hand, are fish posts, while at any of the northern trading stations potatoes nowadays play a considerable part in the food supply, even as far up as Good Hope. In certain places and in certain years rabbits are an important article of diet, but even when there is an abundance of this animal, the Indians consider themselves starving if they get nothing else, and fairly enough, as my own party can testify, for any one who is compelled in winter to live for a period of several weeks on lean-meat will actually starve, in this sense: that there are lacking from his diet certain necessary elements, notably fat, and it makes no difference how much he eats, he will be hungry at the end of each meal, and eventually he will lose strength or become actually ill. The Eskimo who have provided themselves in summer with bags of seal oil can carry them into a rabbit country and can live on rabbits satisfactorily for months. The Indian, unfortunately for him, has no animal in his country so richly supplied with fat as is the seal, and nowadays he will make an effort to buy a small quantity of bacon to eat with his rabbits, unless he has a little caribou or moose fat stored up from the previous autumn.

Jun 1, 1906

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 3

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Stefansson talks about Mr. Thomas Anderson of the Hudson Bay Company "much of his talk concerned the degenerate later days when people insisted on living on such imported things as beans, canned corn, and tomatoes, whereas in his day they lived entirely on fish and caribou meat."

On my first trip down the Mackenzie River all of the affairs of the Company had been under the direction of Mr. Thomas Anderson, an energetic and capable officer of the old school. He was a man generous to a fault with his own property, as I have good reason to know through being with him in Winnipeg and Edmonton, but as soon as he got into the North where everything he handled belonged to the Company rather than to himself, he became parsimonious even to niggardliness ; and much of his talk concerned the degenerate later days when people insisted on living on such imported things as beans, canned corn, and tomatoes, whereas in his day they lived entirely on fish and caribou meat. Now everything was changed. Not only had the modern Mackenzie River replaced the old - fashioned Wrigley, but Thomas Anderson had died, and the affairs of the Company were under the no less energetic but completely modern direction of Mr. Brabant. I remember how, in 1906, Mr. Anderson boiled with indignation at having to carry one of the servants of the Hislop & Nagle Trading Company as a passenger for sixty miles from Red River to Macpherson, and he spoke with suppressed fury of the degenerate officials at Winnipeg who compelled him to countenance such things; and now we had in his stead Mr. Brabant, who would have been the better pleased the more of his rivals' men he could have carried, providing, of course, they paid him fares for transportation which yielded a profit to the Company. The change had been gradually taking place, but with the coming of Mr. Brabant the transformation was complete, from the old policy of exclusion of competitors to the modern one of unrestricted competition.

Jul 23, 1906

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 3

GreatWhiteOncomingSquare.jpg

Stefansson stays at Fort Macpherson and preps for living off the land. He also describes a story of deaths caused by eating poised white whale.

During my stay at Fort Macpherson I was the guest of Major Jarvis. The rest of the policemen occupied the barracks on top of the high bluffs that here flank the eastern side of the Peel, but the Major preferred a tent by himself down by the riverside. Soon after our arrival, the Eskimo boats began to come from the North and the Major's tent became the center of a village of their tents. Most of the Eskimo were old friends among whom I had lived on my previous expedition. There was much talking and laughter, and apparently they were very glad to see me, but no more glad, I am sure, than I was to see them, for I had reason to consider some of them among my best friends in the world. Under their communistic system of living the Eskimo have developed the social virtues to a considerably higher degree than we have; they are therefore people easy to live with, and one readily makes friends among them, but, of course, they differ individually as we do. Of all those who came here this summer the finest, in my estimation, was Ovayuak, a man who had been my host for several months during 1906–1907. The Hudson's Bay Company had recognized in him the same qualities which were apparent to me, and had accordingly made him a “Chief,” which merely means that he is the Company's accredited representa tive among his countrymen , and acts, in a sense, as the Company's agent. In talking with Ovayuak I found that many of my acquaintances of a few years before were dead, some of them of consumption, some of unknown diseases, and a group of eight had been poisoned by eating the meat of a freshly killed white whale. It happens every now and then that a whole party of natives is killed by eating white whale meat. This sort of thing is referred to by the whalers ordinarily as ptomaine poisoning; but it can scarcely be that, as I have seen tons of semi- decayed whale meat eaten and have never known a single case of sickness or death connected therewith, while the poisonings always occur at feasts which are held immediately after the killing of a whale, or else from whale meat that has been cut up promptly after the killing and stored so as to largely or entirely prevent its decay. On the lower posts of the Mackenzie River and here at Mac pherson we had gradually been picking up such dogs as were for sale, and now had eleven all together. So as to put in operation as early as possible our principle of living on the country, we began here to set our fish nets to get food for ourselves and the dogs, but there were so many other nets in the water that we got very little, and I had to buy a few hundred pounds of dried fish to eke out.


We reached the open ocean July 23d, but were delayed here somewhat by strong winds, for, like the delta flats of any other river, the Mackenzie mouth is an exceedingly dangerous place in a high wind, when mountainous breakers roll in from the open sea. On the 24th we reached the first Eskimo camp on the coast, at a place called Niakonak, just after the sudden death of a woman and young girl from white whale poisoning. This is another of the cases I have since heard referred to by mounted policemen and whalers as ptomaine poisoning. But the Eskimo explain it by saying that the women died because they made some caribou skin into garments the day after they ate white whale. In other words, they had broken a taboo. Personally, I agree neither with the policemen nor the Eskimo. It seems to me the poisoning could scarcely have been ptomaine, because the meal after which the women sickened took place within three or four hours after the animal was killed; in fact, the pieces of meat were put right into the pot the moment they were cut from the animal.