Climate change leading to a drastic decline in caribou populations has prompted strict hunting regulations in Canada’s Northwest Territories since 2010. The Dene, a subarctic indigenous people, have responded by turning to tradition and calling for more respectful hunting to demonstrate respectful reciprocity to the caribou, including a community-driven foodways project on caribou conservation and Dene caribou conservation which I co-facilitated in 2011. In these ways the caribou is approached as a person. Dene responses to caribou decline can best be understood by ontological theories of an expanded notion of indigenous personhood. However, I argue these theories are inadequate without an attention to foodways, specifically the getting, sharing, and returning of food to the land. The necessity of sustenance reveals a complicated relationship of give-and-take between humans and caribou, negotiated by tradition, yet complicated by the contemporary crisis.
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Walsh, David S. "The Nature of Food: Indigenous Dene Foodways and Ontologies in the Era of Climate Change." Religion and Food, Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 26 (Summer 2015), 225-249.
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