The natural ebb and flow of the seasons

In spring, summer and fall, Indigenous Peoples traditionally spent time fastidiously preparing for the arrival of winter. From the harvesting of food and the crafting of durable clothing and tools, deep respect for the power of winter was ever-present. But winter wasn’t a season to be feared — instead, many Indigenous Peoples used the shorter days and time indoors to connect with their families and communities, sharing stories and passing on ancient wisdom.

A unique perspective on winter

For millennia, Indigenous Peoples have found ingenious ways to survive and even thrive, in harsh conditions. For example, Inuit sled dogs, or “qimmiit,” traditionally not only provided transportation but were also trained to sniff out seal breathing holes in the winter and caribou tracks in the summer. The lead dog was even trained to always find the way home — even in the most blinding blizzard conditions. And Inuit sleds, or “qamutiik,” used traditional Inuit design techniques like knotted wood to traverse the Arctic sea ice safely and efficiently.

Indigenous Peoples also developed fascinating ways to enjoy the colder months. The game “Snowsnake” involves throwing a long stick across a flat, snowy area. The game dates back over 500 years and was a competitive sport between First Nations men returning from the annual hunt. To stay fit and active through long winters in the Far North, the Inuit played games like “High Kick” and “Kneel Jump” to strengthen their joints and increased flexibility, or “Harpoon Throw” and “Blanket Toss” to improve accuracy.

Adapting to the elements

The harsh climate of winter necessitated ingenious inventions made of available materials. Ice skates were crafted from bones and wooden planks, and down sleeping bags were made from skins and eider duck feathers. To prevent dangerous moisture evaporation in extreme temperatures, some Nations used beaver and wolf hair as fringes for parkas and gloves. The Inuit crafted ingenious “snow goggles” from wood, bone, or ivory to reduce the amount of glare from the blinding snow and focus their vision.

Hear our winter stories

On your winter journey in Canada, your Indigenous guides will share priceless ancestral knowledge on the intricate details of Canadian winter landscapes and wildlife. Join us on one of our many winter adventures where you’ll learn about the legends of our Peoples and fall in love with the rhythm of your own footfall on the snow.