Growing up with my grandmother I don’t remember eating very much store-bought meat.
We always had a freezer full of caribou meat or moose meat and fish. Sometimes we would have the odd duck or rabbit.
Today my family eats store-bought meat at least three days a week. It is rare that we have wild meat on the table. Eating store-bought meat is not only expensive, it’s also not very healthy. Many Indigenous people are urbanized now, even in our small communities we rely on processed food being delivered to us.
My family was fortunate enough to have caribou meat given to us by one of my cousins a few days ago and while my children were enjoying their meal, one of them asked, “What kind of meat is this?”
I said, “It’s caribou,” and he responded, “I thought they were extinct.”
This should be concerning to everyone. As Dene, it’s important to keep our hunting traditions alive but it’s also important to protect the herd. So finding that balance is difficult especially when it has become on ongoing political debate.
One of the most important Dene laws is to share what you have, yet this is becoming difficult with the increasing number of hunting bans on caribou.
Now, hunters have to travel further to to harvest from more stable herds. It is difficult for them to fulfill the obligation of sharing in our communities. They are under pressure to provide for many, leaving some with the feeling that there is never enough to go around.
It’s difficult for some hunters to share with anyone other than their immediate family. Some hunters stow away what they’ve harvested and have become more secretive about what’s in their freezers because they are worried they might run out, that there won’t be enough to last them until the next time they go out on the land.
When one of my relatives is so gracious to go out of their way and give me a piece of caribou meat, I always make sure to share it with others that haven’t had the same opportunities. I share because I believe that by sharing, not buying or selling, we are keeping our Dene laws alive and the caribou will become more abundant.
The caribou are like spirits. Like ghosts that travel the land and they will show themselves only when we are respectful following the Dene laws, sharing what we have in our communities, sharing with elders and those that are suffering, sharing with those who can’t afford to purchase store-bought food and sharing with those that have lost a connection with their culture and are unable to go out on the land and provide for their own families.