Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Dene / Livelihood

Article: Survival

In traditional times, the children were taught about their place within the environment. This enabled them to live in the harsh conditions of the North. Discipline would be harsh at times, but it was considered necessary for the survival of the people. Children learned to do things the right way. They had to learn the protocol so they would not endanger the groups survival. Day to day life revolved around hunting and trapping for both men and women. Good skills were encouraged from early childhood. The Dene had resource rules: The bonding developed between the young and old people out on the hunting ground. The basic rule was to only take what you need from the environment in a respectful way, the animals were not only taken for their fur, food, and hide, but there was a special connection between the animal's life force that was given up for the survival of man. Men would consult between one another before a hunt on how the animals would be approached. The boys were carefully instructed and sometimes the girls by their father if chosen. They were Instructed on body movement in the forest such as how to walk quietly and to wear proper clothing. The elders would demonstrate while the young observed. Respect and appropriate protocol was always practiced. At times a person with spiritual powers would be asked to advise the hunters. The physical and the spiritual part of the person had to go through a preparation phase before going out to the land to hunt. One rule of great importance: a hunter must always give the animal some time alone after it is killed. There were two explanations for this. Firstly, so the spirit of the animal could find its way back to the creator and to it's own place with other game. Secondly, the meat is always better after this short pause. A gift to say thank you was left in return for the using the land and to give thanks for the safe journey back to camp. The added responsibility of the women was not to affect the hunting trails during their menses or immediately after childbirth. The belief was that the woman's blood had strong powers that could affect the survival of the Denes¶øiné. The girls were instructed of this important survival skill and it was taught into the minds of the people from childhood and the rule became part of a traditional belief. It was considered taboo for a girl or woman to step over men or their hunting gear at any time after pubescence. The lady elder stressed that such a practice was to insure survival among the people.