First Peoples > An Ancient Bond with the Land > Communal Hunters > Communal Hunters of the Plains and Western Subarctic

An Ancient Bond with the Land

Communal Hunters

Communal Hunters of the Plains and Western Subarctic

Much of interior Canada was home to people who depended on the communal hunting of herd animals for subsistence. In the northern Plains, the Nehiyaw (Plains Cree), Anishnaabe (Plains Ojibwa), Nakota (Assiniboines), Atsina, Siksika (Blackfoot) and T'suu T'ina (Sarcee) were all communal bison hunters. In the Subarctic, caribou were the main species hunted by many Algonquian and Athapaskan (Dene) groups, including the Gwi'chin and Chipewyan of the western Subarctic.

Cooperation was key to communal hunting. Hunting communally produced more food and materials with less time and effort than individual hunting. This meant that there were surpluses available for times of scarcity.

One hunting technique - Bison were driven toward cliffs in such tightly bunched, fast-running herds that the animals were unable to stop before plunging over the edge. Such cliffs are known as bison jumps.

Based on an illustration by Judith Nickol, from The First Albertans, by Gail Helgason, Lone Pine Publishing, 1986.
Drawing: Susan Laurie-Bourque
© Canadian Museum of Civilization

Bison Jump - Drawing: Susan Laurie-Bourque

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