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Living off the Land

First Nations peoples lived off the land for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. There were no grocery stores or refrigerators. They hunted, fished, and gathered food from the land around them. They knew when and where to find everything they needed to live with the land.

Food First Nations People Ate


The term ‘agriculture’ is a European word that means to cultivate the soil to grow crops and raise livestock to produce food and other products. First Nations people on the Prairies did not practice agriculture in the European way and did not consider themselves ‘farmers’. However, they did have some agriculture practices, such as planting crops like beans.

An illustrated Indigenous woman is kneeling to pick green beans in a garden.

First Nations people in southern Saskatchewan grew beans.


Indigenous people would only hunt when they needed to and only took what they needed from the land. Indigenous people were not wasteful and used as much of the animal or plant as they could.

First Nations people were stewards of the land. Being stewards of the land meant understanding and living together with the land, plants, and animals. With this came an understanding that everything in the world is interconnected and that we need to be respectful of all Mother Earth has to offer.

Always respect the land and it will provide what you need.

What will you give if you take?

Practice reciprocity always.

Always practice respect and take care of your relatives, both human and not human.

Transplanting Seeds

First Nations were not nomadic people and did not walk aimlessly on the Plains. They followed the animals and knew exactly where they were going. First Nations people had specific areas they would go to and make camps year after year. These areas protected them from the environment or extreme weather events (storms, wind, and floods).

A photograph of an Indigenous man, woman and child outside their teepee.


First Nations people living on the Plains went back to the same areas to camp year after year.

First Nations people transplanted seeds and plants to areas where they would camp or move through. This helped ensure that they would have food when they came to the camps year after year. Beans were one crop grown in southern Saskatchewan. The planting and transplanting of plants is a form of agriculture, it is simply different than the European method.

An illustrated Indigenous woman is holding a plant.

This grandmother is transplanting plants.

As the land and the animals helped people survive, the First Nations people became stewards of the land. They believed they must live with the land rather than live on the land or own it.

A photograph of an Indigenous man, woman and child outside their teepee.


These Indigenous women are saving seeds.

Hunting and Fishing

The bison (buffalo) is a large animal that was very important to First Nations people’s survival. A buffalo could feed many people for several days and was used to help clothe and maintain tools for the people. In northern Saskatchewan caribou was hunted most often. Fish was also an important source of food for First Nations peoples who lived near water.

An illustrated Indigenous person is preparing a bison hide that has been hung up on wooden supports.

Buffalo hides were used for clothing and tipis, and needed to be prepared.


One way First Nations people hunted buffalo was to run them down. Men would run after a buffalo until the animal’s heart would eventually stop.