Photostory #365: Age-Old Hunt for Fabled Fish of Canada's North: SAPOTIT -- Where The Char Run Big

Doug Wilkinson
National Film Board of Canada
Release Date
June 2, 1964
CMCP fonds
Credit Line
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography fonds, National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives
Main Text
As the sky-circling sun of the arctic summer skims ever-lower during its midnight arc across the northern horizon, families of Canadian Eskimos head inland. With the sun's long, drawn out, day-by-day farewell giving warning of yet another far-off winter to be provided against, the hunters, living in the ways of their forefathers, make for the ice-cold rivers where the big fish gather. As glistening, sleek, fat-bellied arctic char leave ocean feeding grounds to shoal, in the river waters, the Eskimos build stone walls in the icy current to trap the succulent fish. For days men toil waist deep in the frigid pools, piling rocks against the river's flow. When all is ready and the fish are trapped, hunters take their spears, wade among them in great excitement. Small fish and agile fish are lucky. Through holes in the weirs and by leaping the stones they break free to continue up-river. Numbed by the water's chill, the hunters drag their catch ashore for cleaning, set aside tasty fish bellies for future feasts, eat a few fish raw as they work away. Later, placed in piles and covered by rocks, the fabled fish of the north -- a staple food in times of want -- is cached for the winter sustenance of man and dog.