With constant regularity the Indians went out after moose, and often indeed the camp could boast of fresh meat to eat. According to Indian custom, we then took with us the most tasty portions of the meat: the tongue, liver, and back-fat.
October 8, 1928
The Land of Feast and Famine
With constant regularity the Indians went out after moose, and often indeed the camp could boast of fresh meat to eat. Moose-hunting, if performed on foot and without dogs, is a most exacting sport. When it is said of a man that he is a good moose-hunter, it means that he enjoys the highest esteem in which the Indians can hold a person.
Antoine was the champion moose-hunter of the village. He seldom returned from the forest without having felled at least one, sometimes several, of these game. Once he allowed me to accompany him. We were two days on the trail of one moose. How distinctly I remember little Antoine as he went weaving or walking alertly along in front of me! Now he would bend down quickly and feel of the lichens beneath his feet, now he would point off to one side where a wolf or a fox had crossed the trail. If a twig should happen to crack beneath my foot, he would send me a lightning-like glance. Nothing escaped his attention, and his step was as light and noiseless as that of a lynx. It was approaching midnight of the second day when he suddenly halted, closely examined the trail, and pointed to a birchcovered slope ahead. We sneaked forward each by a different way and felled the moose, just as it came dashing past.
We flayed and quartered the carcass and spread the hide out over the pile of meat. According to Indian custom, we then took with us the most tasty portions of the meat: the tongue, liver, and back-fat. When, at midday, we came paddling back into camp, all were up and about, as is the tradition when hunters return from the field. It was also part of the custom that each person who met us was given a mouthful of the newly killed game to taste.
The following day all the men set out to transport the moose meat back to camp in preparation for the great autumn feast of the hunters. At these gatherings no women are permitted to be present.
We betake ourselves to one of the larger tepees and seat ourselves in a circle, our legs crossed beneath us. We wait. Suddenly, through the door of the tepee a little Indian boy appears carrying a pot of meat, so enormous that he is almost hidden behind it. Steam rises in billows from the pot, and the whole tepee is filled with the delicious aroma of moose venison. The Indian lad digs down into the pot with a forked stick and throws a huge chunk of fat in front of each hunter. He follows this first with one, then with another piece of lean meat, the result being an enormous portion for each one to feast upon. I squint out of the corners of my eyes at the others. There they sit, in silence and as stiff as pokers; no one would ever imagine that they have it in mind to partake of this food. Then Antoine gives the signal, and, in a flash, the entire assemblage pounce upon the food before them. They dig their teeth into gigantic pieces of meat and, with large knives, cut it off close to their lips, thus proceeding mouthful by mouthful. No sound is to be heard, save that of over-stuffed mouths chewing and the sound of cracking marrowbones. Everything is swallowed down; no more than a few slivers are left. A series of pleasurable belches are heard, whereupon, our pipes lit, we sink back on our caribou hides with a delightful sensation of having overeaten.