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AN201 - Eastern Subarctic Notes.docx

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Byron Williston

Part 1 Eastern Subarctic  Quebec, Labrador, Northern Ontario  Northern forest hunters, trappers, fishers  Transhumant bands  the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures.  Moose, woodland caribou, game birds, waterfowl, fish; trap beaver, mink  Algonquian languages o Cree o Ojibwa  8 dialects o Broadly distinct dialects (eastern/western plains)  Extensive array of river systems and forests  Plant and animal life predominantly coniferous trees  Game often caribou and black bear o And other fur bearing animals  Algonquian language o Cree and Ojibwa o Extends to the west (Alberta) and different dialects o 77,000 speakers of Cree in Canada o 60,000 speakers of Ojibwa in Canada Historical Factors  European presence (19 century influence)  Cree invasion  Trading posts, trading groups  Home guard bands  groups of people who left their migratory life to a still trading post  HBC appointed leaders  Brought over disease o Decimation of populations o Widespread various indigenous groups and areas Aspects of Northern Cree Adaptation 1) The biophysical environment a. Cultural ecology of a northern hunting/fishing/trapping culture i. “The Paleolithic problem” b. Cree Ethnoecology i. Relationships between people and animals ii. Ntau – the sacred quest 1. Going from human camp into forest where animals live, includes rituals 2) Adaptation to the Sociopolitical-Economic Environment a. Encapsulation and acculturation b. Assimilation (absorption)  amalgamation (extinction) c. Private property for exchange  cultural assimilation d. Bush  cultural preservation  regional politicization  terrirotial/political empowerment e. Town  capitalist economy  regional politicization  terrirotial/political empowerment Flora o Similar to Western Subarctic o Permafrost in northern quebec o Taiga forests o Coniferous  Pines, spruce, hemlock, larch o Cold-adapted deciduous  Birch, willow, poplar Fauna o Moose, caribou, black bear o Fur bearers: beaver, mink, muskrat, wildfowl Peoples o Region occupied by speakers of one or two Algonquian languages (Cree & Obibwa) o Subsistence and Sustainability Two-phase cycle: Summer  Village (Band)  Fishing  Wage Work  Transfers Fall- Winter-Spring  Hunting group/territories  Fishing  Land food  Migratory Ntau: Cree Ethnoecology o Cosmology o The forest and the camp o Human-animal relationship o Friends, shepherds, keepers of the game o Ntau  The quest (“to seek after, to be given”) o Preparation o Sacred knowledge  Dreams  Divination o Concept of power o The hunt, the return, the feast, ceremonies o Mitew  spiritual knowledge and hunting productivity Theft: Judicial Process o Complaint o Consultation o Mitew: investigation o Public knowledge of theft o Theif must compensate something o Mitew: threat o Punishment Adaptation to the Political Economy of Canada o Two types of colonialism o Neoeuropeans vs. resource colonies o The colonial pattern in the Canadian North o Agents of change:  Fur traders 17 C  economic change  Missionaries 19 C  ideological change  Government 20 C  political change/incorporation 1971-2005 o James Bay Hydroelectric Project o Treaties and comprehensive claims o Cree response  created Grand council of Cree’s o James Bay & Northern Quebec Agreement o $220 million o regional government o funding  schools, clinic o James Bay (second part of project) 1989-95 o Cree response: protesting to the UN and NY state o Huge impact of James Bay development on Cree people READINGS Chapter 6: The Northern Algonquians: A Regional Overview o The Eastern Subarctic is sometimes referred to as the Northern Algonquian culture because the entire region is occupied by a branch of the widespread Algonquian- speaking peoples o The surviving languages form two closely related dialects grouped into two languages  Cree and Ojibwa o They are confusingly spoken of in English as being two “tribes” o Old terms such as “Naskapi” implies the status of being a separate language rather than a dialect of Cree o The modern word replacement “Innu” has the same implication o It is what the people call themselves o Cree and Ojibwa seem to have developed independently from Proto-Algonquian (separating ~3000 years ago) o Relationship between dialects is quite complex o Because in historic times whole groups of people have shifted from one dialect to another o Eastern Subarctic is characterized by long winters, short summers, and a continental climate o The generally cold climate is related to jet streams passing from west to east and tends to draw arctic high-pressure air masses to the south east o In spring and summer, intensified sunlight decreases dominance of arctic air so seasonal contrasts are strong o Precipitation is relatively light o Total annual precip. In Ontario ~60cm mostly from thunderstorms o However, climate from James Bay is much affected by Hudson’s Bay  Air currents in fall and early winter get moisture from Hudson’s Bay and it gets dropped along eastern shores and inland  From mid winter to early summer the Bay remains ice covered  James Bay experiences very heavy snowfall and cold temps o Europeans found this climate harsh and difficult to accept o Northern Algonquin’s have long been adapting to cold, unpredictable and extreme climatic weather conditions  Eg. A late spring meant a late breakup of lakes and rivers for travel, and the late arrival of migrating geese for food  Less moisture meant less snow cover, meaning less shelter and lower survival rates for some animals  Drying of streams serious issue for canoe transport from one hunting area to another o The landforms, rocks and soils of Eastern Subarctic supports life but also poses as challenge  The Canadian shield is the single topographic feature that has most influenced Northern Algonquian life  Glaciers, lakes streams and swamps provide home for many animals important for food and furs  Valued relationship between Hurons and Algonquians o Trade furs and leather for cornmeal o Aboriginals interacted with the environment in many ways  Native peoples managed game levels directly by varying the intensity of hunting  Also managed game levels indirectly by manipulating the environment, primarily through the selective use of fire  Small, carefully located and timed fires used to hasten new growth in the spring o Attracted desired animals and birds, fostered desired plants like raspberries and blueberries, created a varied habitat that could support a larger number of animals, and opened up areas for travel and hunting o Changing patterns of human activity have been major determinants of Northern Algonquian life  Strongly “traditional”  Contact in the east subarctic was much earlier – in some cases more than 350 years earlier than western subarctic  Due to length of cultural contact, peoples lives changed dramatically over the years o Eastern Subarctic saw early missionizing of its people, early exposure to diseases, greater involvement in fur trade then in the west o Their lives have never been solely subsistence-oriented  They evolved distinctive social traditions  World views  Cultural and religious patterns that had their own dynamics of variability and conformity Chapter 7: Hunting and the Quest for Power: The James Bay Cree and Whiteman Development o The “Quest for Power” is a metaphor the James Bay Cree uses for the life of a hunter o Canadians might use it for the goals of northern developers and government bureaucracies o “Whiteman” is a general term the Cree use for non-indigenous people o James Bay Cree lies to the east and southeast James Bay and southeast of Hudson’s Bay o Cree have lived there about 9,000 years, since the glaciers disappeared o Population now ~13,000 people and live in 9 settlements o They hunt approx. 375,000 sq. km of land Animal Gifts o Their concept of hunting different than understanding of most North Americans o Cree term “Nitao”  Hunting, fishing, trapping in the bush o 5 basic meanings for this term:  To see or look at something  To go get or fetch something  To need something  To want something  To grow and continue to grow o Hunting is a process of seeing signs of the presence of animals  Tracks, feeding and living areas o And then to seek to encounter the animal to kill them o To get an animal in the Cree view doesn’t mean to encounter it by chance but to receive it o Hunter enters reciprocal relationship  Animals are given to hunters to meet their needs and in return hunters incur obligations to animals o This conception of hunting involves complex social and moral relationship o They look at animals as “like persons”  Capable of independent choices, responsible for things they do, each has own preparations for winter, relates and communicates with members of its species, and they have emotions o Cree have extensive knowledge of animals and is a basis for their understanding that animals are “given” o Killing an animal is not solely the result of knowledge, will and actions of humans, but the most important reason for the gift lie in the relationship of the givers and receivers o The hunter must adapt his hunt to what he learns from and knows about the animal he hunts The Hunters World o Animals are given by the “wind persons” and by God or Jesus o Active phenomena such as wind and water, and spirit beings such as God, are all considered to be persons or associated with personal beings o Fundamental unpredictability in the world o The environment cannot be perceived or experienced fully by a human being at any one time or at one place – it is too large and complex o In many ways, the animals and hunters, and the success of the hunt, depend in part on the conditions brought by the winds o These relationships can be discovered by anyone spending enough time in the bush – cannot be taught in schools o God plays a key part in the gift o
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