Nain is the northernmost community in the Nunatsiavut region. It has a population of about 1190, and is the largest community in Nunatsiavut. The surrounding landscape is includes a mix of tundra-covered hills, rivers, mountains, fjords, and boreal forest. Inuit in Nain typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Torngat Mountain herds.
Starving for it, we are. We are hungry for caribou. We're not used to old moose meat, now, we got no choice. It's not the same.
Translated text coming soon
I always said that even if we didn't get caribou that the benefit was to be out on the land, but after being told and, I guess, being forced not to be able to hunt the animals any more, you still get a good feeling when you get out on the land, but it's not the same. It's almost like the caribou was the reason and everything else happened after. But now when we go in, like, when I go into the country now, and, I don't know, it's like a big, it's like a puzzle. You spend all that time to get the puzzle done, but there's a big piece missing. It's just not the same.
Missed it really, myself. I look, just look at it, it hurts me sometimes, when I go somewhere, just look at it. I don't want to be in trouble with the law, when they make the law, but it hurts me too, it really hurts me that they make the law not allowed to kill them. That's all I wanted to say, hurts me really bad.
It's effecting everything in our every day use. Whether it's our health, I mean, we're eating different foods now so people are talking about how not having caribou in our diet is now effecting our health. Whether it's having heart problems or diabetes or any other kind of serious health problems. We really, truly believe that caribou is so important to our lifestyle. I can't imagine it never not coming back, so, I really miss it in my diet.
You have it in your mind that you're watchin' for caribou tracks. And now, even if you see caribou tracks, your mind goes back to how exciting it was to see those tracks. Just tracks even, not the caribou, so then you'd hunt them, but it plays on your mind. You know, you're losin' your traditional practices that we've had and it is emotional, it's kinda hard to explain I guess, but yes, it is, it's sad. You feel like you're kinda trapped. You're not allowed to hunt them, even though you want to and on the other hand, you're not wantin' to hunt because you want the herd to survive. So, it is, it's emotional, yeah. It's sad, so.
When my sons were growing up hunting with me the best stories and the best days would be like when they got out and got their caribou with me. Like being a parent and all and you live in the north and you go out hunting with your family you try learn off your dad much as you can. I think stories like that is just, beats and other story for me I think. That way they can keep their generation going if I passes away.
Sharing still happens with smaller game but not like it was with caribou, yeah. And we don't even, not just the hunt of being around here, even being able to go into the country and stuff like that and knowing the land. Like that knowledge is gonna go with it. Yeah. It's large.
Well, I think it's very sad, especially for the elders. They don't want to see that being lost, and not only do they miss the caribou as a source of food, but I think it's sad for them to know that their children, their grandchildren are not gonna get the chance to do it, and not know how to do it, probably.
We used to be way up north my parents on motorboat. And we saw this land there one time. We had to run away, we had to run away one time going back to the boat. This caribou coming, too many caribou they are coming, they never stopped. So we had to go on the boat. Covered, the land was covered, movin', eh. This is when I was small then, I guess. There was good experience.
We used to plan to go north every spring, and never failed to get caribou up there. And it was nice because the north was kind of a highway for caribou hunting in the spring, so you'd run into lots of people you wouldn't see otherwise and share information and stories and get together, and there would be a lot of visitors in the cabin. My Uncle Apa's family and our family used to get together at the cabin and hunt caribou and that kind of stuff. It was nice.
Hopedale is the legislative capital of the Nunatsiavut region. Hopedale is inaccessible by road, and can only be reached by air, boat, or skidoo. It has a population of about 560 people. The surrounding landscape is includes tundra-covered hills and fjords. Inuit from Hopedale typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Torngat Mountain herds.
They cooked everything. They cooked right from the brain to the hoof, Mom said when they was growing up. So it must have been hard to get then too, yeah. Never wasted a thing.
It's definitely affecting the way culture is passed on because there's a lot of things the younger ones now can't take in on, right? They can't go and watch and learn, see the caribou, actually just see them, and how they feed and how they roam the land and how you go about harvesting them and cleaning them and right down to everything. Cooking them and using different parts of them for different things. The fur... It's really good for sleeping on in a tent. Caribou skin. Antlers were carved. Everything was used. So, yeah, it's a, a big link, I think, in the culture, taken out there, missing now. Like a gap. So how are the younger ones going to know about it, I don't know.
When they showed me these pictures I couldn't believe how it's, because we go, every run I was on, and for mainly partridge hunting, and everything is so barren and you can't imagine that the hills almost look like they were moving once upon a time, with so many caribou. And it's so hard to imagine. Especially for me because I never got to see a whole lot of it. I was so young, so small. Yes, it's crazy, it really is. Hard to believe that they were actually here, so many of them and so locally, so close to town.
It would be good if caribou could be sent here from somewhere, anywhere, really. Or even if like people from here could go away, like somewhere kind of close where there's caribou, maybe like Nunavik or something to learn how to hunt caribou, maybe, I don't know. That would be cool.
When you go on your first caribou hunt and you kill your first caribou and you, you go with the people that went before you and went with you, I mean, you feel, you become a man, you know, same as seal hunting. You, you know, that's the two biggest things that, you know, as a young boy, growing up on the coast, you know, you watch people coming back from seal hunting. You watch people coming back from caribou hunting and you can't wait for that day that, you know, it's gonna be you and the pride and the feeling that you get and from the people that, you know, your elders and your parents and everybody else, that you know, you went and accomplished this feat.
The caribou are declining at an alarming rate, but to have just a little for the elders would mean so much to them, like once a year, like one caribou would feed this whole town. Imagine what, say, five would do for Nain to Rigolet for the elders, especially, because they long for that part of their diet. What I would like to say is that Nunatsiavut could do just a little bit more to bring that back into the diet of our elders. They could easily just send for, like the Leaf River herd up in Nunavut or Nunavik that they could purchase or trade for something of value to them up there what would mean so much to us down here. That's my message for what I think of the caribou and what could be done instead.
My grandmother mostly used to... tan the hides for making moccasins. Everything was used, the sinew off the back of the caribou, she used that for sewing the boots up... I tried, it was ok, you had to be careful how strong you pulled. You used as much as you can, like you didn't knock off this and tie it off, it was right down to the last part.
Postville has a population of about 205 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of rivers, hills, and boreal forest. Postville is inaccessible by road, and can only be reached by air, boat, or skidoo. Inuit from Postville typically interacted with caribou from the George River herd.
The first time I heard there was gonna be a ban on caribou, it was just awful, right? I just couldn't believe it, it was like oh no, right? This can't be true, but it was. You had to accept that it was true. And knowing you're not allowed to even kill them anymore, ban and all that, it's just really hard. We felt it was really hard on the people, right? And really hard on myself. Definitely, definitely hard.
It's something we don't know much about because we never got to hunt them and we never got to actually kill them. But it's something that we do love to have and have as part of our culture. Because it can be used for so much and we do miss it even though we never had much of it when we were younger. Only our younger years but it's still something we'd like to have
One Fall in particular I think it was 1994 or 1993. The caribou was going from one side of the bay to the other side of the bay all night long for three weeks steady. Just a steady stream up over the hill and you could see them day and night. So that was, that was one big thing around here. And again I just thought, I didn't think that could disappear so quick. And then before that I used to go caribou hunting up north and the hills used to be moving when they start doing their migration. You'd look at the land and be just moving everywhere.
It meant food, like they're something we depend on all the time. When they came here, years ago, well to us it was something that we ate almost every, probably every second day, and since the caribou has gone away, it's gotten more expensive for food. It was important to everybody in town. Before they came here even, people went to Nain or back then it was Davis Inlet. And they went down there caribou hunting. So it was very important food for us
Well if we don't go on the land, we lose all our knowledge of travelin' around and all the (mumbles) stuff eh? I mean you gotta go out on land once in a while, look for a partridge or porcupine, set traps or whatever. I mean, it's pretty important for us to still gettin' it on land, but you can, you enjoy it but not like you would a caribou hunt. 'Cause caribou huntin's something you would look forward to every winter, come January. No, well we can't do it no more. Only dream about it. And wish we could. But, that's it I guess.
I've got too many [stories of caribou]. Like, in around Nain, we used to go up from here, hunting three or four days in the country and come back out, and then get some gas, grub, whatever you want, come back home
We used caribou for the food and clothing. But it's gone now, so. Misses it, like for especially our food where the food is so expensive in the stores and you used to eat caribou like three or four times a week. And have, well, even more sometimes, I guess.
I fell off the roof of my shed and broke my two feet... they told me that it'd be up to six weeks to six months before I could walk but I, over a few months, I made myself walk and I was wearing these boots just to support my feet... and my buddy of mine, Bob Evan, was going off for a caribou hunt. I said I'd like to go, too, I convinced him to let me go. We took off in, and while we were in there, it was really cold going in. We took wind mild when we got there, and I couldn't walk proper on the crust of the snow. So I just ended up, I was crawling, crawling, I could crawl faster than I could walk. So crawling, shooting caribou, I think we were able to kill two caribou that year. I got my first caribou, the first things I did was I want my antlers off for a keepsake. My buddy came back, his gun wasn't shooting, so I end up on my knees, I kill his caribou for him, too.
To hear about the ban the first time, it was kind of shocking. It was very disappointing... it was like oh my goodness what are we going to do now? Then having to try to find other food sources is hard. Very very hard. Like you can improvise, but you know what? Nothing will take the place of the taste of the caribou. Of how you prepare the caribou. Like nothing will take that place or fill that void that you kind of longing for.
It's a tradition. I don't think the tradition is lost but it's shut down for the time being until the caribou returns.
Makkovik has a population of about 360 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of tundra-covered hills, rivers, and boreal forest. Makkovik is inaccessible by road, and can only be reached by air, boat, or skidoo. Inuit from Makkovik typically interacted with caribou from the George River herd.
I gets up in the morning when the sun is just rising when I'm making [caribou carvings], and put them there and look at 'em before anyone is up and all that. And then I can see what's wrong with them or help make them a little better. And I just likes looking at them in the early morning, boy. Looking at 'em and then they reminds me then of all the caribou, how I'll chase one, I don't know walking alone, aye. Yeah, it's a good thing to start making them boy... there's nothing to get and it still keeps the memory alive, aye? It keeps it all alive, although we can't get none.
So growing up as a kid you were always excited to see if you're getting chosen to be a second driver because it's a long trip going into the country to go hunt caribou. And as kids growing up we would be excited if one of our uncles would ask us to go because you're driving like 12 hour days, and to be a second driver was almost like a privilege that you can now go off with the big guys I guess, and not having that anymore, and especially now that I have a daughter, it's different because she won't know that way of life. Just from one caribou hunt I learned how to kill a partridge, I learned how to kill a caribou, how to skin a caribou, how to set up a tent, how to light a fire, put up the stove, how to get a Ski-Doo unstuck, I mean there's so many aspects of survival that you learn on a caribou hunt. And the kids now, especially in the community of Makkovik won't have that anymore. They'll have to find it in other means.
[The decline of caribou] had kind of changed the diet to other things but mostly store bought stuff. Well there was moose starting to come on stream but you only get probably like a couple of meals of that. Yeah it was different without the caribou. When they left and you couldn't get them no more, it's back to store bought stuff and people was wishing they could have meal of, seems like it was a healthy thing.
When we was home in Akulivik and the komatik was coming with the caribou, everybody would run out, you know. It was really a good time when people came home with caribou.... and like, on festival days you had the roast, you had meat cakes, and we call the party meat, some people calls it hechis, you made that from the bones and from the head. And like my grandchildren never ever had that. And I got great grandchildren too.
Well, when you're used to something and you're doing it every year, it's like a tradition. And when that's take away, you can't do that anymore? It impacts on people's mind. You feel bad when you start thinking about it.
I want [people outside Labrador] to think about all those wonderful traditions they have like I don't know having this big Thanksgiving dinner and not being able to do that with your family. Or people not being able to go on hunting trips or camping trips or their vacation. I want them to imagine not being able to do that because you're not allowed to do it. Because there's just there's no way of taking one thing away for other people to understand this has to be a huge impact on everyone. Because it is a huge impact on us as Inuit and, you just gotta live it to actually understand what we're feeling and what we're going through and the pain that you see in elders eyes when they know they can't hunt something that they've been hunting their whole lives they can't pass on the knowledge because they're getting older they're getting sick.
It was not just getting the meat. The hunt was a part of our, as we already said, cultural activity once a year. But we got to take our kids, to teach them how to live off the land. I mean, I spent up to nine days in a igloo in bad weather and hunting. So how to make an igloo, how to survive, what trails do you take to get in there. When you get in on the land, where do you go? Taught that to a couple of my children, the older ones. My oldest daughter went caribou hunting with me a few times when we were in Nain. I was fortunate enough, my son is much younger, but fortunate enough to take him on a couple hunts before the caribou disappeared.
Caribou meat is such a good meat that you can use it so many different ways and I would say close to 50% of our diet when we were able to get caribou and now that we can't get it anymore it is so much more expense to supplement it with store bought meats.
Rigolet is the southernmost community in the Nunatsiavut region. It has a population of about 305. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of rivers, mountains, and boreal forest. Rigolet is inaccessible by road, and can only be reached by air, boat, or skidoo. Inuit from Rigolet typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
The joy and the satisfaction of a hunt, the preparation, the actual hunt, the bringing it back to the communities, the participation from different communities, going into other communities and socializing and sharing and helping each other and that's not there anymore. You travel to Nain or you travel to Nunavik. You travel to Labrador West, you know, inside of Goose Bay, Border Beacon inside of Natuashish. You go to Natuashish, you go to Davis Inlet, Makkovik, Postville, Hopedale. People came here to harvest caribou. It was that social aspect of it. It was a part of who we were. It, so it not only played a significant role for filling bellies, but there was that social, respectful aspect of that.
Very important to us, everybody I think everybody talking about the caribou and closed over there and everyone trying to kill them on the Mealy Mountains and its close for almost 60yrs you know they said it would be closed for to 5yrs, they told us and so the people, I was young then that's what there talking about after I grow up bigger and bigger I know, I know what they talking about you know was to long 60yrs and not open yet you know I seen a lot of caribou over there
When you grow up on the land, things like this is just part of your lifestyle. It's almost like it's part of you and you just almost take it for granted that it's there and it's always going to be there, I think when you're younger. And now all of a sudden that's taken away. I think it affects anyone, not only financially, but I think it affects anyone emotionally and mentally in a sense, too, because all of a sudden it's not only your diet has changed, your whole lifestyle has changed because you can't go out on the land and take your children or your grandchildren out and show them this is what we done or we need some more caribou, now we'll go out and kill one or two. Yeah, it's hard to explain, but yeah, it is it's completely different from what it would have been, say, when we were children now for my grandchildren.
To Inuit culture it's important because they're, they're a part of the land and being living out here like this on this land like this not too far from here, they share the land with the humans out here and the people, the Inuit. It's part of their lifestyle with the caribou in their life. They're growing up on this land from small to adult, same as us. Like growing up from kids right up to adulthood and they're doing the same thing just in a different way. It's their land and their lifestyle out here, being like this, generation after generation too like us. Part of the land, part of the land out here.
My friends usually think, they think different. They're always talking about caribou. They're always talking about them. I wish we were allowed to kill one, just one, so I can have some meat.
A lot of the younger ones don't, they don't have the connection to the Caribou like we do because they, they never knew that they could hunt them. They're growing up in a world where, they're not allowed to hunt them. My son, Dane, he's right now growing up in a world where he's not allowed to hunt them. And if someday, we do have a meal of Caribou he'd never tell anybody, that's just the way it is. I don't know if he'll ever get the chance to hunt them himself, but someday I guess.
It was an annual thing. Every winter the men would go hunting and stuff like that. And you'd try, they just did one hunt a year, so whatever they got on that first hunt, that was pretty much it for the year then. So we always tried to stock a little bit. But it played a bigger role I think in that people had that much meat that they shared more with other people who didn't have it. I think the effect it has on my life, and what I try to pass onto my children now is that sharing is still a big part of our lives, and I want them to continue that. But I think caribou allowed us to do that because you had so much meat all at one time.
My grandfather and grandmother or I guess my ancestors before they moved into Riglet they used to live over in Caribou country, so they pretty much grew up with the Caribou and hear stories about Caribou and (engine revving drowns out speaker). They used to start seeing the Caribou in late November and December, they would start seeing them and there would be nothing up to then and all of a sudden one day there would be Caribou everywhere.
Cartwright is a community in the NunatuKavut region. It has a population of about 430 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of rivers, mountains, and boreal forest. Inuit from Cartwright typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
But a caribou now is almost like a, I don't know, some kind of a special creature almost... you know you won't see hardly any big herds of caribou anymore. But even if you will see one that doesn't have big majestic antlers on it. You know it's still a magnificent animal and I guess where you're not allowed to kill it makes it more precious. You know I don't know I just said and I think it is a good symbol for Labrador.
Well in them days it was was the only way to eat meat, eh. But never the day where you go into a shop somewhere and buy meat.
There is no favorite way [to cook caribou]. Any way at all, as long as it was cooked. There was no favorite... I mean as long as we had caribou meat, we were eatin caribou meat. I personally could've eaten it every day, but getting it cooked every day, some of them started saying "Oh you're gonna grow horns one day if you don't stop eatin caribou meat".
We would travel to Hopedale, Makkovik, Churchill Falls, wherever the caribou was at, and the areas was open, and we would probably kill anywhere from six to 10 caribou per trip, and then we'd come back and then we would share around with other family members and stuff.
The tongue was everybody's best... tongue was prepared with meat. Usually with meat that had little or no fat in it. So a solid chunk of leg meat for instance, you would cook a tongue with it. It would add a little bit of flavor plus add a little big of grease, or oil, or caribou grease. That'd just set the whole meal off. Just unbelievable. Plus the tongue itself was very very tasty.
The caribou was used for a lot of things. Like we used it for food... some of the Inuit use it for clothing. A part of the caribou, the sinew part, was used for sewing and stuff, so there's a lot of, a lot of use for the caribou. And now it's, like it's gone.
I don't know, I think, well it's like I say, I mostly miss it, I miss, I miss the meat, meat value and I miss the hunting part, the trip, with you know, the camaraderie or whatever with your buddies and everything, and meeting the people and stuff like that it was a, a big thing other than killing a caribou. There was a lot more to it than that, right?
I mean it's, you know, part of our, a staple in our diet and mainly we just utilize whatever we could from it. I don't know, I just never, you know. Trying to explain something to someone who don't know about it... I'd have to sit down and think about it.
To me, it's just a major food source we're used to having for years when we were growing up. And now that it's gone, well, we miss it. Most of the expenses plus, it's really delicious meat, so it's hard to replace.
I don't know how many years, but the Mealy Mountains herd today, I can remember when my parents, my father used to go caribou hunting, bring home caribou, and then then they were gone, and now they're back again. So, it's only a cycle. They just move around in different areas.
[My] first one was on Makkovik. That was a good many years ago, though... it was pretty good goin'. We left from here on skidoo and we camped for a night. We got to Makkovik next day. Then we got a guide down there to go caribou huntin' with us... about eight, I guess. That was for some other people too.
It takes, it takes something away from the people when they can't go hunting at that, like. And the food, it takes something that, you know, that you always long for really. Yeah, seems like you're hungry, most of the time you can't get the right kind of food
Charlottetown has a population of about 290 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of rivers, hills, and boreal forest. Inuit from Charlottetown typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
I haven't had one for years. Only when I was young... but I liked it better than moose. But never had one for years now.
George Morris Sr.
We was youngsters, dad come home with the caribou, before he get them took off of the quamutik, we'd be into 'em. The inside, when they'd have the gut and that took out of them, and you'd see the lumps of fat stuck on inside, we used to grab that and haul it out and eat it. Candy, candy, oh, we loved it. Four or five of us youngsters. Be at that and then they'd always save that apron, what they called the apron inside, and that was like little lumps of fat. Wash that and hang it up and let it dry. Dry up and you'd be eating that two or three days. That was our candy, because we couldn't get candy. Didn't know what candy was hardly.
What I miss most? I miss most, like I've said earlier, was getting ready to go caribou hunting, and going buddying up with your buddies and go caribou hunting for a week. Having a bit of fun. Get your caribou, take your time and come home. Perhaps stop along the way and have a fish get a few partridges. When you go on the way, that was a part of the caribou, and that's what I miss most about it. When January used to roll around, and it was caribou hunting time, you'd be getting ready. You might be a month before you went caribou hunting, but you'd be still getting ready. Because that what you looked forward to. That was a part of the winter, it was looking forward to go caribou hunting, and now we can't do it no more.
Well when I was young we'd eat a lot of caribou. There was lots of caribou to hunt and we would get some. But they, a generation later, now my children used to go, my two boys, they'd went and hunt many of those caribou up around Nain and Hopedale and that. So now, you know, I don't hear much of what's happening up there. So don't seem to be many up there either.
George Morris Jr.
I think one of the biggest impacts of the loss of caribou to the South Coast is you're not going from community to community so much as you used to one time. One time, when there was a hunt done, you didn't necessarily just hunt. You'll take two or three men from your own community and go. You probably had people coming from other communities like 10 or 12 men going together from different communities and have a shared hunt and harvest and bring it home to the communities
I remember one time the caribou... was one string in a straight line for thirty-five miles. And it looked to me about four in a pair right four broadside and just heading directly north
Port Hope Simpson, NunatuKavut
Port Hope Simpson has a population of about 420 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of rivers, hills, and boreal forest. Inuit from Port Hope Simpson typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
You can never replace the caribou. Nothing. The moose is. The moose is eatable. It's OK. It's good. But. Nothing replaces the caribou.
Bill Russell Jr.
Everybody should be able to go and hunt something on your own land, right, something on your own land people lived off. Some people wished, needs it really now, some people do. But yes, anything, you should be able to go hunting, like same as fish. If we lost our salmon up home or codfish or something, we'd be lost, for us people.
One time, it mean everything. It was a wonderful thing, about the best meat you can get. That's what, we people, in Labrador, I don't know about anywhere else, that was what we looked forward to, getting that for food. When we lived in here first, that's, what, fifty, sixty years ago, in the fall of the year, as soon as my father'd get in here, they'd put their dogs and go on in the country, bring out caribou. They'd bring it out and give it all away. Go back and get another load for people. That's the way it was in them days.
William Larkham Sr.
We used to be in the country with these younger fellers but, the main lot of caribou was gone then. We was too young to go in the country. I was only 12 or 13 years old, and there be dog teams coming through Ricksen Cove from Mary's Harbor, Lodge Bay, pass through and stay overnight in Ricksen Cove, on the way in, on the way out, see, they would get their load of caribou and dodge on back, towing the caribou.
St. Lewis has a population of about 194 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of tundra, hills, and boreal forest. Inuit from St. Lewis typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
Everybody likes to hunt, you know, it's the excitement that got, like when you hunt you get a little excitement when you kill. You don't kill to do no harm, you kill for food, right? So if you kill and slaughter it, you know, there's no need of that but for food, I kill it. It's, the emotional part to the younger people now like, you almost gotta teach them again 'cause they never come up through it. They never grow up through it like, depending on caribou, right?
I can't get caribou on my table. Not even a forkful! One time, when my parents was grown' up, was one year there was a lot of caribou here and that was down toward... I think it was it was in on the back of Gilbert Bay. They were much the same as there used to be up North. There was thousands in there. And they were as quiet as chicken, much the same as they used to be up North.
North West River
Northwest River has a population of about 550 people. The surrounding landscape includes a mix of rivers, hills, and boreal forest. Inuit from North West River typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
Was inside of Nain, I went inside the pearly gates of Nain and first time I ever seen it was the hills are rolling, there was no... like you couldn't see the snow or nothing. There were so many caribou and they were rolling on the hills like that, like wave coming after you. Oh, that's the most caribou I've ever seen in one look and they stretched for miles just a wave like that over the hills, brown. That was about the best thing I ever had, never had a camera back then to take a picture with, but oh, that's about the best thing in my mind of what I saw, yeah.
Well as a female going out caribou hunting, it was a big feat. And one of the last hunts that I was on, um, we were with a bunch of people, friends from, where was it? From Pinsent's Arm, so I was the only, and Cartwright. And I was the only female, and there were three, four men, five men, sorry. So Dick and I had our own tent, and they had a tent, and going in was, we went down along Lake Melvond, when through I think Otter Lake, to Nipashish. So when we got in there, we set up camp, we had to go buy some water, and for me, that was like "Oh, I don't know about this". But when we got in there and got settled away, it was wonderful.
Caribou hunting is a big hunt, and it's a big animal to hunt. We wouldn't go together for a partridge hunt because it's a bigger animal, I guess, and it's a harder animal to get than the smaller animals. Seal hunting we do, and it's a social event as well. For same reason, for food and for the seal skins. But, I could always see caribou hunting and seal hunting being a social event like that. Where we all gather up in one place, have a boil up and cup of tea and lunch outside, and stuff like that. Yeah, it's because they were harder, harder to get.
It was such a nice food resource and same with the community too and now people are turning to moose, and we're getting more accustomed to eating that and beginning to like it a bit more, but they're still not caribou, and caribou still has, you know, like a mentioned before, the uses of the hide and so on, we're more accustomed to that and used to working with them.
Happy Valley - Goose Bay
Happy Valley-Goose Bay is the largest town in Labrador, with a population of about 8,100 people. It is in the Upper Lake Melville region of Labrador. The surrounding landscape includes boreal forest, hills, and rivers. Inuit from Happy Valley-Goose Bay typically interacted with caribou from the George River and Mealy Mountain herds.
We're losing language. We're losing traditional ways, and the loss of a food, a cultural food, is just as high of an importance as language, as craft, and art, and all the rest of it. And people are like, "I never really thought of it that way." But, I said, it's the truth. So, I said I'm 48 years old, and my chances of ever eating caribou again, and I'm hoping I live a decently long life, is very, very slim, you know? And I'll never have my marrow bone, my thing that I want more than anything on earth, I will probably never, ever get never again. So, you can't help but feel that sense of sadness and loss, and it's hard enough for someone to be sick, and for their life to end, and then to know that the final blow is that you'll never get to have what you always had.
William Larkham Jr.
Now, after they closed [the hunt] completely, you can't get none for yourself, and so, yeah, it was pretty, it's hard to take, really, and like I said, I kind of joke around a lot and say that's half the reason I moved to Goose Bay was for the caribou, and now they're gone, so what do I do?
Yeah, it was almost like a big family. Like I said, I was hunting caribou 41 years, and it seemed like no matter whatever we caribou hunters went, you'd always manage to meet people or hunters, I guess, caribou hunters from all over Labrador. Even with the caribou, if the caribou was in this particular area and particularly in Central Labrador, I guess. There was hunters coming in from everywhere cause it was the only place at that time you can get caribou. It was never easy to get to the caribou... but I mean that didn't seem to bother hunters, they came in from Rigolet from Southern Labrador from Northern Labrador. You know, just some seemed like one big happy family gathering in a lot of areas.
The thought of it, and to go caribou hunting and see all those things again, that's dreams. It's kind of a magic in its own way that, like that. So it's not just an animal that's there for you to go and take. It's a spiritual kind of experience to see all that, to be part of that. The land, you gotta look after land or there'll be no caribou
The herd needs to come back to the earth. It's their earth as well as it's our earth. We're just thankful they became our food for us.
I think there's some people think so, you know, that the caribou is declining, maybe we shouldn't have any but, but to go without it, I find it really bad like most people, senior citizens especially, they find it really hard to go in the winter without the caribou. They misses it so much and there's nothing else can satisfy their craving that they have.
Oh my gosh, there's no meat can come handy to it. I loved it, we always had to have one here. We'd always get it, but I'd never get it... I ate it every day. I can eat it every day. Who would eat the one thing every day, there's only Kraft dinner, I don't see anybody that wouldn't eat it.
Missing out on this caribou thing. Well, it's not only about being able to eat the caribou. It's being able to go out on the land and harvest with your father, or your grandfather, or something like that. That whole experience. Our culture, is what it is, right? I mean that's our makeup. Sure we, you might still take them down smelting for a day, or something like that in Melbourne Bay and this Goose Bay area. But to go on an actual hunt, a caribou hunt. You know, you're gonna be out gone for maybe several days. To spend a night off in a tent. To see their tracks and be able to chase the tracks. You know, to actually hunt them. To shoot them, to clean the animal, the whole experience of it. Being out there in the sun, sometimes cold, sometimes snow. It's something they'll never forget.
Caribou being a, you know, amongst the wildlife in Labrador. It's meaningful to you, it means something to you. You have memories of growing up. I have memories of fishing with my father or, or you know being out on snowmobile and having a boil up and eating wild meat. It's just, it's natural to you. It's, I would rather eat salt water duck more so than have a piece of chicken. I can promise you that one.
The meat was really important. We always had meat, caribou meat. It was a healthy choice, especially in coastal communities, where you don't get all the fresh produce. You know... wild meat is consumed daily in our household, mom and dad always was. Now, not me so much, I try to, and caribou was a part of that, part of the meal plan that we had, everyday wild meat in our house, really important then.