Probably the Western Dene deserved Father Morice’s criticism more than our natives did, for the Western Dene lived near another source of food – fish, and should have been able to survive with less time spent hunting. Father Morice, in The History of the Northern Interior of British Columbia, is rather critical of the Carriers and Sekani that he met. In his opinion, “a natural apathy, lack of artistic ambition or want of skill caused the Western Denes to be practical rather than aesthetic craftsmen. Where extra exertion was not absolutely necessary, it was very seldom bestowed upon any kind of work. Therefore most of their implements are exceeding simple and sometimes even rude in appearance.”
Something about our Beaver’s way of life, if shared by their Western “cousins”, may have escaped him – the communal use of heavy implements. There were certain places where specialized work like pemmican making was carried on. Many groups shared these spots. Heavy tools were left behind there to be used by those who followed. It was not reasonable to spend much time decorating an expendable item.
There were two aspects of Indian life in the old days that we seldom think of, important though they were. First was the brake put on everything by inefficient tools. With a power saw we can, in five minutes, cut down a tree that would have kept an Indian with a stone axe busy all day. Everything he did was slowed down in the same way. Making a basket or a pair of moccasins took hours of labor, days on end had to be given to building a canoe or making a tipi. Everything needed throughout a man’s life had to be made, usually by the man himself or by his wife, using tedious hand methods, time consuming and laborious. Imagine our own situation if we had to make all the things we need ourselves – our clothes, shoes, knives, matches, everything. Making many complicated things, such as automobiles and radios, even building the houses we have today, would be quite impossible and we should find ourselves spending most of our time making things for daily use, with very little leisure for anything else.