A profile on First Nations trapping in Canada

In this January 2014 TV segment, Shaw TV Saskatoon looks at the potential for trapping to revive the culture of the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, through the eyes of Jarret Nelson. 

Jarret Nelson is packing for a day on the trap line. He recently moved back to his home community of Montreal Lake to follow his culture. In the winter, trapping is his full-time occupation. 

“As with most of our communities, our culture is a dying tradition and I’m trying to preserve it and keep it going,” says Jarret.

Nelson learned how to trap from his grandfather. Like most trappers, he spends a lot of time clearing trails. This land has been used by his family for tens of generations.

“On the trap line, whether you catch something or not, you’re always learning something out here. Just being out here, you don’t even worry about anything that comes with the office work.”

The fur trade is considered by some to be Canada’s earliest industry. Currently, fur prices are up, though fur prices and the loss of culture made many trappers abandon the practice. However, two years ago the Asian fashion industry renewed the popularity of fur. Since then the price of pelts has significantly increased. High-quality coyotes sell for around $80. Martens are around $170. This is making trapping a viable way of life for First Nations and others who harvest fur.

Says Jarret, “If our people start learning their cultures and traditions and going back to the lands and looking after their trap lines, yes, there is a guarantee that people can make a healthy living and a viable source of income. If you put the work and the sweat into it, you’re going to make money.”