The Persistence of Aboriginal Land Use: Fish and Wildlife Harvest Areas in the Hudson and James Bay Lowland, Ontario


  • F. Berkes
  • A. Hughes
  • P.J. George
  • R.J. Preston
  • B.D. Cummins
  • J. Turner



Cree Indians, Fishing, Hunting, Indian reserves, Land use, Regional planning, Social surveys, Subsistence, Hudson Bay region, Ontario, Moose Factory, Moosonee, Attawapiskat, Kashechewan, Fort Albany, Fort Severn, Peawanuck, James Bay region


The question of the extent and importance of contemporary aboriginal land use in the Canadian North remains controversial, despite more than 20 studies undertaken since the mid-1970s to document Native land claims and to assess impacts of development projects. In planning a community and regional development strategy that takes into account traditional land use and economy, methodologies were developed for a computer-based, integrated land use and wildlife harvest study that could be applied over large geographic areas. Wildlife harvesting areas used in 1990 by the aboriginal people of the Mushkegowuk region, Hudson and James Bay Lowland, were documented by interviewing 925 hunters from eight communities (Moose Factory, Moosonee, New Post, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, Attawapiskat, Peawanuck and Fort Severn). Results show that geographically extensive land use for hunting and fishing persists in the Mushkegowuk region, some 250 000 sq km. However, the activity pattern of Omushkego (West Main) Cree harvesters has changed much over the decades; contemporary harvesting involves numerous short trips of a few days' duration instead of the traditional long trips. Although the First Nations control only 900 sq km (0.36% of the region) as Indian reserve land, they continue to use large parts of their traditional territory.

Key words: land use, aboriginal territories, Hudson Bay and James Bay Lowland, Canadian subarctic, Cree, subsistence, wildlife, fisheries