From the beginning, Native American peoples had many ways of getting food, the techniques usually depended on their tribe and area. The methods include hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering and farming. Primarily the males would go out to hunt and the women would then clean the animal, prepare it for cooking, storing, and for other resources. With all animals aboriginal people would use the animal for not only food but for things like clothing, weapons, tools and other useful objects.
Majority of the tribes got their food from hunting big and small game. Aboriginals from the Great Plains, like Cree for example relied on hunting bison. Because of the bison being such a large animal, the Cree would lead the bison off a cliff. There was also more conventional hunting methods like using a bow and arrows, spears, tomahawks, snares and traps. The men from the tribe would go out on hunts to get large game like deer, moose, caribou, elk, buffalo, and bear as well as small game like rabbits, beaver, and muskrat. They would also hunt turkey, ducks and other fowl.
Tribes that lived along the coasts or near large bodies of water would specialize in fishing. For tribes that fished, they would use spears, and nets to catch the fish. Fishing was also useful not only in the warmer months but in the cooler seasons as well. Tribes would also ice fish, they would cut a hole into the ice on a body of water and lure fish then spear them through the hole.
Gathering is the second most common way of First Nations getting their food. Usually the women would travel in the surrounding areas to find berries, nuts, fruits, leaves and other herbs in the wilderness. They would use the gathered resources found in the wilderness for foods, drinks and medicines.
Primarily Aboriginals were nomadic, meaning they did not live in one place but moved often in search of more food and resources. But when Native people started to live in one place they began to farm. They would plant the seeds of the foods they used. The most popular farming goods were squash, corns, beans, pumpkins, and potatoes where the land permitted.
Some tribes specialized in hunting and trapping, fishing, gathering or farming according to their area and resources. Aboriginal peoples are known to have been very resourceful and have survived on the great history of hunting and gathering.
Culture and Tradition
There are many teachings that were spread amongst different tribes and clans about the significance of hunting and gathering. An old teaching that came from the Ojibway tribe was that everything was created for a purpose, and each living thing on the earth had its place in the circle of life. They believed that the animals were created to feed the Anishnaabe people, to give us strength, and we should be thankful for that gift. It was very important for the hunter to pray and give thanks when taking the life of an animal, as taking that life meant that he could feed his own family. It was also said that if we stopped hunting and fishing, that we were no longer grateful for the gifts that the creator had given us – therefore it is an act of cultural tradition to not only hunt and fish, but to give thanks by placing sacred medicines when an animal life has been taken for the survival of the tribe.
Hunting and Gathering Today
Throughout our history, First Nations people used many techniques to get their food and supplies with methods such as hunting and trapping, fishing, gathering and farming. Today, many Native American people still hold true to their hunting and gathering roots and traditions. Despite the fact that many native people currently reside in urban centres, there are still a large number of First Nations people living on reservations, who consistently practise hunting as a cultural tradition.