Hunting dominated almost every aspect of life
Hunting was the primary concern of the aboriginal family group, especially in winter when sources of food were relatively limited. Nearly every aspect of life revolved around their hunting pursuits, including their expert use of deadfalls and snares, the establishment of their family hunting grounds, and the importance of animals to their spiritual well-being. It even dominated their social relationships, helping to forge new alliances and partnerships between families and bands.
Early European observers found that aboriginal people took pride in their hunting prowess and their sense of accomplishment and identity stemmed directly from hunting. Fur trader Peter Grant noted that the Ojibwas considered whites inferior to themselves. He noted, “They pity our want of skill in hunting and our incapacity of traveling through their immense forests without guides or food”.
The ability of aboriginal people to hunt gave them a sense of purpose and pride; a great hunter was an esteemed person who was valued by the people who had a special relationship with the animal world and the spiritual world.
Aboriginal preoccupation with hunting showed in their patterns of speech and conversation as well. Activities such as courting were described in hunting terms and hunting topics predominated almost every discussion. This fact was evident in the narrative of John Tanner, a white American who lived for thirty years among the Ojibwas and Ottawas after having been captured from his parents' home as a child. The editor of his narrative stated that he had to omit the numerous details of hunting upon which Tanner, speaking about his life among the Ojibwas, constantly dwelled. Despite these omissions, the books narrative primarily deals with hunting. Hunting was also central to the education of youth. Early missionaries and educators widely complained that the only thing taught by the Indians to their children was hunting techniques.
Adapted from Vecsey, Christopher. 1983. “Traditional Ojibwa Religion And Its Historical Changes.” Memoirs. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
A collaborative effort of members of the Ojibwe and Metis communities