Trapping in Northern Saskatchewan
R-A1192 to R-A1213, R-A1238 to R-A1240
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Summaries of some interviews
Interviews conducted in 1977 under a contract of the Saskatchewan Archives Board. Concerned that many of Saskatchewan's northern youth do not have the opportunity to learn the skills of trapping and survival in the bush, Virgil Terry interviewed a representative group of trappers who through the years have depended on trapping for their livelihood. They speak of their experiences and their camps and traplines as far north as Barren Lands, N.W.T. and the Churchill River area in northern Saskatchewan. Others who set their traps further south describe life near Carrot River, White Fox, Clear Lake, Turner Lake, La Ronge, Candle Lake and Cumberland House. Trapping was characterized as a healthy and disciplined life producing strength of character. It was often found to be a necessary part of a homesteader's life as it was the only way many could find to put cash in their pockets. Four of the people interviewed are Native or Métis and three interviews were conducted with women trappers who were the wives of trappers. These interviews are remarkable stories of family life and the woman's world of meal preparation and homemaking in the bush. They also show a woman's equality when faced with the challenges of nature on the trapline. A trapper himself, Virgil Terry has known and worked with his informants for many years so there is little inhibition on either part. Most of those interviewed were acquainted with one another through attending the annual trapping convention or staying in each other's camps while travelling the north. The warmth and camaraderie which is revealed through their stories stems from a genuine friendship and respect that they have for one another. The informants seem to relish the interview as an opportunity to tell about their experiences in isolation along their traplines and at outlying camps. In listening to the reminiscences, one gains an insight into how the trapper's lives have changed over the years. Though Virgil Terry is well acquainted with the methods and skills involved in trapping and survival in the north, he seems to understand what a novice, listening to the tapes, need to know. He encourages the informants to speak in detail and the descriptions which he elicits are vivid and specific. The topics which are explored in the collection are varied and include the following: the evolution of trapping technology from 1915-1977; techniques for trapping various animals including muskrat, lynx, mink, fisher, beaver, coyote, otter, timber wolf and weasel; hunting moose for food; interesting experiences with bear, moose and timber wolves; falling through the ice; surviving in adverse weather conditions; travelling along traplines and maintaining several camps; early days when traders came in to traplines to buy furs and bring supplies; observations of wild life habits; imitations of moose mating calls; outdoor cooking; a woman's life at trapping camps; dog teams and driving; keeping dogs in feed; trapping as a family; how the conibear trap revolutionized trapping; how to snare an animal, the illegality of it and its eventual legalization; trapping by leasing zones; relations with other trappers in a conservation block; rotating the trapping of areas to maintain prices for furs over the years; the number of furs obtained over the trapping season; the necessity of snowshoes, rifles and dog teams, sleds or power toboggans; higher prices received at fur auctions in larger centres as compared to trading with local fur dealers; fur control programmes and conservation including trapping quotas and blocks; cooking and eating game; how trapping and bush survival builds character in youth.
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