Historical Events

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Kuptana describes how Eskimos would congregate to catch fatty char in weirs and collect them through October and then meet near the forming ice to make winter gear and hunting equipment.

October 10, 1911

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The Northern Copper Inuit - A History

Facultative Carnivore
Hunter-Gatherer
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

Early fall, however, was a productive time for spear fishing in rivers and streams. This was the time of year in many river systems when arctic char returned to lakes after spending much of the summer feeding in the ocean. The char were fattest at this time of year and hence a desirable food item. Families arrived at fishing sites eraly enough to repair the stone weirs, which might have been disturbed the previous winter by ice movement. The repair work completed, families waited for the run to start. In areas with large char runs, a number of families might congregate. A successful fishing season was marked by great numbers of filleted fish hung to dry. Much of this fish, as well as the caribou, was stored for use during late fall and early winter. 


Autumn

William Kuptana: When fall approached, they [Inuit] treked back to their wintering grounds. Along the way when they killed caribou, they built stone caches to store the food for winter. The cache also served as protection from scavengers such as wolves and foxes. Sometmmies, too, depending on the weather, the caribou meat was cut up to make more dried meat. The dried meat was lighter to carry and fermentation didn't take place as quickly as it did with raw meat if not eaten right away. 


When they arrived in the vicinity of their wintering grounds, they started fishing through the frozen ice on the lakes. Arctic char was baited by a polar bear tooth, then speared. The fish was then scooped with a sealskin bag wrapped to a wooden or bone handle by a sealskin thong. They filled those bags with fish. The preferred catch was male fish and the preferred area of fishing was in the spawning areas.

Fishing for char was done through October when the ice got too thick to chop through. 


As the fall season brought colder and windier weather, groups generally met at traditional fall gathering places where women prepared the winter's clothing. Once families moved out onto the ice, women were forbidden to sew, and all had to be accomplished at the gathering place. While women prepared the clothing, men made ready the winter hunting equipment. Hunting and fishing continued, but on a limited scale. At this time of year, game was relatively scarce. Often, families had to live on accumulated food reserves. Once ice conditions permitted the migration on to the ice, the winter season of sealing and polar bear hunting would commence.