Subsistence in Canada
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Mr. Macoun, you are an experienced Canadian explorer and naturalist. In your late 19th century travels in the west, did you ever encounter the diet and nutritional conditions of the natives on the prairies?

For the next five days Matheson and I lived on oatmeal porridge without salt, and this, I consider, the greatest privation any man can undergo except actual starvation...

There were about one hundred and twenty-five beautiful tents, most of them being made of tanned buffalo hide... a number of women came around the camp while we were eating and I gave them pieces of biscuits and, by signs, they asked us if they could wash the plates. We said yes and, before they washed the plates, they actually licked them clean... Father Scallen said "Do you know that the people here are dying of starvation?... There are two lying dead in their tents now who have died of starvation." When I heard this I said: "You tell the Chief that I am going up to Calgary and that tomorrow I will give him all the provisions I have except what we will need to take with us up to the fort." We retired and left all of our provisions in the cart and had our doubts as to whether we would see any of them in the morning. We were agreeably surprised, therefore, that not one particle of our food had been touched...

Late in the afternoon, the men returned and the War Chief, who had Father Scallen's horse, had killed no less than six cows and the others had killed numbers also... When I called on [the War Chief] that morning, he was sitting in his tent like a lord and, in front of him, was a large heap of bloody meat, cut up into pieces of possibly 20 pounds weight. Every once in a while, a squaw would come into the tent and say some words in their language, and he would nod his head and she would take a large chunk and leave. This went on all the time I was with him. The advent of the buffalo relieved me of giving my provisions, so we packed up and left their camp for Calgary in the afternoon.

Summer, 1879

Autobiography of John Macoun, Canadian Explorer and Naturalist, 1831-1920

The Scarboro Heights Record V10 #8

PS: Early settlers in Ontario also lived day-to-day at a subsistence level.