Historical Events

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A London explorer named Samuel Hearne was tasked with exploring the Northern lands of Canada and failed at his endeavors twice before finally figuring out the secret to traveling long distances overland on a subsistence hunting way of life - According to an Indian named Matonabbee, women were necessary to process the meat and help haul the camp equipment or repair clothing and tools.

September 20, 1770

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A Journey from Prince of Wales’ Fort in Hudson’s Bay, to the Northern Ocean . . . in the years 1769, 1770, 1771 and 1772

Helge Ingstad

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Pre-civilization races
Carnivore Diet

In the evening of the twentieth, we were joined from the Westward by a famous Leader, called Matonabbee, mentioned in my instructions; who, with his followers, or gang, was also going to Prince of Wales’s Fort, with furrs, and other articles for trade. This Leader, when a youth, resided several years at the above Fort, and was not only a perfect master of the Southern Indian language, but by being frequently with the Company’s servants, had acquired several words of English, and was one of the men who brought the latest accounts of the Coppermine River; and it was on his information, added to that of one I-dot-le-ezey, (who is since dead,) that this expedition was set on foot.
September 20th 1770.

The courteous behaviour of this stranger struck me very sensibly. As soon as he was acquainted with our distress, he got such skins as we had with us dressed for the Southern Indians, and furnished me with a good warm suit of otter and other skins: but, as it was not in his power to provide us with snow-shoes, (being then on the barren ground,) he directed us to a little river which he knew, and where there was a small range of woods, which, though none of the best, would, he said, furnish us with temporary snow-shoes and sledges, that might materially assist us during the remaining part of our journey. We spent several nights in company with this Leader, though we advanced towards the Fort at the rate of ten or twelve miles a day; and as provisions abounded, he made a grand feast for me in the Southern Indian style, where there was plenty of good eating, and the whole concluded with singing and dancing, after the Southern Indian style and manner. In this amusement my home-guard Indians bore no inconsiderable part, as they were both men of some consequence when at home, and well known to Matonabbee: but among the other Northern Indians, to whom they were not known, they were held in no estimation; which indeed is not to be wondered at, when we consider that the value of a man among those people, is always proportioned to his abilities in hunting; and as my two Indians had not exhibited any great talents that way, the Northern Indians shewed them as much respect as they do in common to those of very moderate talents among themselves.

October 1770.

During my conversation with this Leader, he asked me very seriously, If I would attempt another journey for the discovery of the Copper-mines? And on my answering in the affirmative, provided I could get better guides than I had hitherto been furnished with, he said he would readily engage in that service, provided the Governor at the Fort would employ him. In answer to this, I assured him his offer would be gladly accepted; and as I had already experienced every hardship that was likely to accompany any future trial, I was determined to complete the discovery, even at the risque of life itself. Matonabbee assured me, that by the accounts received from his own countrymen, the Southern Indians, and myself, it was very probable I might not experience so much hardship during the whole journey, as I had already felt, though scarcely advanced one third part of the journey.

He attributed all our misfortunes to the misconduct of my guides, and the very plan we pursued, by the desire of the Governor, in not taking any women with us on this journey, was, he said, the principal thing that occasioned all our wants: “for, said he, when all the men are heavy laden, they can neither hunt nor travel to any considerable distance; and in case they meet with success in hunting, who is to carry the produce of their labour? Women, added he, were made for labour; one of them can carry, or haul, as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night; and, in fact, there is no such thing as travelling any considerable distance, or for any length of time, in this country, without their assistance.” “Women, said he again, though they do every thing, are maintained at a trifling expence; for as they always stand cook, the very licking of their fingers in scarce times, is sufficient for their subsistence.” This, however odd as it may appear, is but too true a description of the situation of women in this country: it is at least so in appearance; for the women always carry the provisions, and it is more than probable they help themselves when the men are not present.


Image: By w:Samuel Hearne, flickr upload by [1] - originally posted to Flickr as A Map of Part of the Inland Country to the Nh Wt of Prince of Wales Fort Hs, By Samuel Hearne 1772 (1969)Uploaded using F2ComButton, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8544311