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Book review: Hunters of the Northern Forest: Designs for Survival...

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  • Book review: Hunters of the Northern Forest: Designs for Survival...

    When I came to Alaska a decade ago, my experience living outdoors in the Appalachian mountain, the bayous of Louisiana and in the Central America rainforests were of limited use. I arrived in the middle of winter, and my first winter hiking trip I quickly learned I had no clue what I was seeing or tracking. Additionally, I certainly wondered if any of my limited trapping skills would be of use. I had not trapped a great deal, but my dad did teach me some basics and I played with this a bit in Central America and in the bayous.

    Someone I met from our church who moved to Alaska from Iowa to homesteadin the 70s recommendated Hunters of the Northern Forest: Designs for Survival Among the Alaskan Kuthcin by anthropologists Richard Nelson. It was published in the 1960s. The homesteader told me it certainly helped him on his homestead in the Chickaloon area where he trapped to supplement his food and income. The book was apparently written after Nelson had lived for a time with the Athabaskans (Kutchin) in northeastern Alaska. The book describes in sometimes painfully boring detail all about how the Kutchins thrived in what many consider a difficult environment.

    I’ve found better resources that help me track, but the book was very useful in learning about animal behavior of critters that I wasn’t experienced with. The book illustrates and discusses how to trap all the game animals of the region along with details of animal behavior. My first successful marten trap set was set up using this book. The book also discusses fishing and harvesting vegetation for consumption or for medicinal use. Travel, building shelter, setting up traplines, etc are all explained in detail.

    The book is well illustrated and detailed like you would expect of a classically trained Anthropologist. My criticism is that it reads like a textbook, which in a sense it is. It’s a useful source of pre-contact knowledge of how to thrive in the northern forest. It certainly helped this southern boy acclamate to the northern environment. Having read it a decade ago, I still refer to it from time to time when I stumble across something I’m not familiar with.

  • #2
    I need to look and see if it is still in print. Sounds like an interesting book.


    • #3
      Here is a link to a google books preview. I am pretty sure it’s on Amazon.
      Boreal forest Indians like the Kutchin of east-central Alaska are among the few native Americans who still actively pursue a hunter's way of life. Yet even among these people hunting and gathering is vanishing so rapidly that it will soon disappear. This updated edition of Hunters of the Northern Forest stands as the only complete account of subsistence and survival among the Kutchin, capturing a final glimpse of a way of life at the crossroads of cultural development.


      • #4
        Yes.........Amazon has the soft cover. New $36.00 (There are used copies $30.90)
        One day you eat the day the left-over five days you eat chicken feathers, head and feet.