Black City: Nothing Wasted: Traditional Uses of Caribou
Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in winter camp, ca. 1898. The dome shelter is made of caribou hides over a pole framework. The snowshoes worn by the hunters likely have webbing made from caribou babiche or strips of rawhide.
Tappan Adney, The Klondike Stampede (UBC Press, 1994), p. 451.
Elder Edward Roberts holding his drum made from caribou hide.
Parka made from caribou hide.
Royal Ontario Museum, D.A. Cameron Coll.
Everything on that caribou is used. Even the feet was hanging dry. They hang it up, it don't spoil. Like the moose nose they burn the hair off it. You could hang it and it'll keep for a long time to come. Then they start to bundle dry meat just like baling fish...In the fall time there's lots of fat caribou. Nothing is wasted on that. They make lard out of the fat, and they use all the bone. They pound it up and they make grease out it. That’s something like Crisco. Real high rich fat, grease... They make clothes with parky skin...They make sleeping robe with skin, and they make Skidoo suit for little kids. They look like Skidoo suit so I call it Skidoo suit, because I had one myself. It was one you don't need underclothes under. You just slip it on and we go. You never get cold with that one. That's how caribou is used for many things. You make robe. You make rope with it. You make dog harness, dog collar, so everything there is for everything.
Annie Henry, 1992
First Nations people were skilled at finding and making everything they needed to survive within their environment. An important resource was the caribou, which provided food as well as a remarkable array of materials for tools, clothing and shelter. Our ancestors made creative use of every resource at their disposal and wasted nothing. Today First Nations people are finding new ways to use caribou, creating prized artworks from carved antler, beaded caribou hide and caribou hair tufting.
To learn more about the many ways we made use of caribou, see the story Nothing Wasted (PDF) from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Interpretive Manual.