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Ingstad describes the fish he lived off of in the Arctic with special detail on their fat content. Trout are "tender and oozing in fat" while whitefish are "exceedingly fat — 'just like meat,' as the Indians say."

May 1, 1926

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The Land of Feast and Famine

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Carnivore Diet

The Indians at the mouth of the Taltson River would be well off indeed, were it not for tuberculosis, which plays havoc with them. Their hunting-grounds extend to the east — a wild and heavily wooded stretch of country, well supplied with beaver, muskrat, mink, lynx, fox, and many other varieties of animals. Every few years, too, the caribou migrate south as far as this point, though less frequently now that forest fires have laid waste enormous stretches to the northeast. 


The Taltson River is one of the best fish-streams that flow into Great Slave Lake. At certain times of the year whitefish, conies, and suckers are on their way upstream, and there is almost no limit to the numbers a person can catch. The waters are so teeming with fish during these periods that, by simply rowing back and forth along the net, one may haul in as many as physical strength will permit. In certain smaller streams one can scoop them up with a dip-net, a performance not at all uncommon in these parts. Huge numbers of fish occur throughout the North, in lakes located in the very heart of the Barren Lands, even where glacial gravel prevails and plant life is scarce. They are used to feed man and dog alike, and the importance of this can hardly be underestimated when one considers that here the inhabitants must, for the most part, live on what wild nature yields. 


The most important of the different varieties of fish is the whitefish, whose rich firm flesh makes delicious eating. Presumably there are two distinct variations of the species, each prevailing in a separate region: the smaller and more common variety, which weighs about two pounds, and the larger, whose weight sometimes runs as high as ten pounds. In certain waters it becomes exceedingly fat — " just like meat," as the Indians say. The deeper streams with stony bottoms are rich in trout. Fish of this species weighing as much as fifty pounds have been caught, and a ten- to twenty-pound trout is not at all uncommon. As a rule, they are tender and oozing with fat; their flesh varies in color from white to deep red. Next there is the cony, a kind of salmon, which, strictly speaking, is called inconnu, since at first no one was able to classify it. From a scientific standpoint it is of especial interest, as it is found nowhere save in the streams of the Mackenzie watershed. It resembles in many ways the whitefish, save that it is considerably larger and that it sometimes attains a weight of over thirty pounds. Its meat is not tasty and is used principally as provender for the dogs. 


There are other species of fish as well. The spiked sucker, — which is a close relative of the whitefish — the bluefish, the slimy loach, whose liver alone is edible, and the pike, which spends most of its time preying on smaller fish and grows so immense that I would never venture to guess its maximum weight. Last of all, I mention a freak herring to be found in Great Bear Lake. . . .