EXTRACTS FROM “ THROUGH TRACKLESS LABRADOR.”
BY H. HESKETH PRICHARD, F.R.G.S. 1911.
The life of the Labrador is entirely predatory. It never has been anything else north of lat. 54, and unless mineral discoveries are made, never can be. Its inhabitants live by the chase. The bears, the caribou, the birds, the seals, the salmon, the trout, and the cod form the capital of the country, and the problem of existence is solved by successful destruction.
The Eskimo year is passed thus : In the spring the hunters kill seal, and, in the north, white whale and walrus ; in the summer they fish for cod and trout ; in the autumn they once more turn their attention to the seal hunting. Throughout the winter they trap, and just before the advent of spring, while the snow is still sound, they make long journeys after the deer by komatik or dog-sledge.
When in spring the Eskimo pass away inland on their annual deer-hunt, long distances are covered each day. The Nain Eskimo make their first camp at Poungasse, fifty miles from the Settlement. Here it is necessary to haul dogs, sledges and outfit up a steep rift to the higher level of the interior. After that there is good going over the snow for a great distance to the south-west. As far as I could gather from talking with the hunters, they have in some years when unable to find the deer, slept five or six times before turning back. This would take them some 200 miles in a south-westerly direction, and it was doubtless upon such a journey that they saw the “ great water, greater than any with which we Eskimo are acquainted,” and which was possibly Lake Michimakats or Michikamau.
In past days the Eskimo on their caribou-hunts used to push forward looking for the deer until the dog-food was exhausted; when that came to an end and they had so far failed to fall in with the herds, they ate the dogs and afterwards starved to death if they still could not kill game. This year-to-year history of the annual hunt, with its persistent tragedies, now only lives in tradition. The east coast hunting parties of recent times run little risk, as when the dog-food is half done they turn home again. It is no longer necessary to gamble with their lives in the finding of the deer, upon which formerly much of their winter provision depended, for now they have the Moravian Missions to apply to, and they know very well that they will not be allowed to starve.