Yearly Circle

Bison HuntingSummer: Bison Hunting

This bison pound site south of present-day Indian Head was used for up to 9000 years. Bison provided the First Nations of the plains with most of their food, clothing, shelter, and tools. As a result, bison played a central role in their ceremonies and beliefs.

A pound or trap was one way of killing large numbers of bison. People built a corral of logs and hides at the foot of a steep slope. After the appropriate ceremonies, runners were sent out to lure the herd toward the pound. As the bison approached the entrance, people yelled and waved robes to stampede the herd into the pound.

The hard work began after the kill. Hides were stripped off the carcasses and fleshed and dried. Meat was smoked or air-dried. Bones were made into tools, or crushed and boiled to remove bone grease. Horns and hooves were boiled into glue. Hair was twisted and braided into rope. Numerous internal organs were transformed into containers.


Fall: Caribou Hunting

People first moved into northern Saskatchewan about 8500 years ago. Ever since, they have depended on Barren-ground Caribou. The hair of the Caribou is hollow, making it an excellent insulating material to make winter clothing.

In the past, Dene trapped caribou with fences and pounds, snares, and pitfalls in snowbanks; they also intercepted them at river crossings. Today, the Dene use snowmobiles and rifles.

Because caribou are central to their life and identity, Dene work with the governments of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Northwest Territories to ensure that the caribou survive.


Moose HuntingWinter: Moose Hunting

Moose have always been important to the First Nations living in northern Saskatchewan. Before acquiring firearms, hunters shot moose with bows and arrows or drove them into deep snow and speared them. Today, rifles are essential tools. During the rutting season, hunters will imitate the call of female moose to attract a bull moose within shooting range.

Hunting is still important because wild meat is more economical than store-bought food. People also prefer the taste of wild meat. Traditional hunters still pray and make offerings to acknowledge the sacrifice made by the moose so that their families will have food to eat.


Spring: Fishing

First Nations who lived on the Plains were traditionally bison hunters. But food was often scarce in early spring, so people would cope with these shortages by moving to river valleys to catch spawning fish. They constructed weirs or traps at narrows in rivers and streams.

The arms of the weir consisted of two converging barriers of logs or stones which forced the fish toward a narrow opening and into nets, baskets, or traps.

If the fish were to be eaten immediately, they were split and roasted over a fire, or were filleted and boiled. If they were to be preserved, they were split and hung over fires to smoke dry.