Human Ecology

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 197–222 | Cite as

Transmission of Indigenous Knowledge and Bush Skills Among the Western James Bay Cree Women of Subarctic Canada

  • Kayo Ohmagari
  • Fikret Berkes


The transmission of 93 items of women's indigenous knowledge and bush skills was studied in two subarctic Omushkego (West Main) Cree Indian communities, Moose Factory and Peawanuck, Ontario, Canada. About half of all bush skills were still being transmitted at the “hands-on” learning stage. Some skills such as setting snares and fishnets, beadwork, smoking geese, and tanning moose and caribou hides were transmitted well. Many skills no longer essential for livelihoods, such as some fur preparation skills and food preservation techniques, were not. Loss of certain skills and incomplete transmission of others (a lower level of mastery than in older generations) were attributable to changes in the educational environment, diminished time available in the bush, problems related to learning bush skills at later ages, and changes in value systems. These factors seemed to impair the traditional mode of education based on participant observation and apprenticeship in the bush, which provided the essential self-disciplining educational environment. Policy measures to counteract these trends may include the institution of a hunters' income security program to provide incentives for family units to go on the land, rather than all-male hunting parties.

indigenous knowledge traditional skills knowledge transmission learning livelihood systems mixed economy, subsistence Cree James Bay subarctic Canada 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kayo Ohmagari
    • 1
  • Fikret Berkes
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Natural Resources InstituteUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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