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How Pemmican Became a Staple Food in Early Canadian History

Pemmican is a traditional food that has a rich history in Canada. It is a high-energy, high-protein food made from dried meat, fat, and sometimes berries. It was an important food for Indigenous peoples and early settlers, and played a significant role in the exploration and settlement of Canada.

The word “pemmican” comes from the Cree word “pimikan”, which means “manufactured grease”. The process of making pemmican involves drying and pounding meat, typically bison or deer, into a fine powder. The meat powder is then mixed with melted fat, usually from the same animal, and sometimes with dried berries. The mixture is then packed into bags or containers, and can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration.

Indigenous peoples used pemmican as a primary food source for hunting and fishing expeditions, as well as for winter storage. Pemmican was easy to carry, provided a high amount of energy, and was resistant to spoilage. It was also used as a form of trade, and was highly valued by Europeans as a source of sustenance during long journeys.

In the early 18th century, fur traders began using pemmican as a staple food for their journeys across the Canadian wilderness. The high energy content and long shelf life made it an ideal food for long expeditions, and it became a key component of the fur trade economy. In fact, by the mid-19th century, pemmican was being produced in large quantities for export to Europe.

Pemmican also played a significant role in Canadian history during the exploration and settlement of the West. The Canadian Pacific Railway used pemmican to feed its workers during the construction of the railway, and it was a key component of the provisions used by the North West Mounted Police during their march to the West in the 1870s.

Today, pemmican is still produced and consumed in Canada, particularly by Indigenous peoples. It is also gaining popularity among outdoor enthusiasts and health-conscious consumers, due to its high protein content, low carbohydrate content, and long shelf life.

In conclusion, pemmican became a staple food in early Canadian history due to its nutritional value, long shelf life, and ease of transport. It played an important role in the fur trade economy and the exploration and settlement of Canada, and continues to be an important part of Indigenous culture and Canadian culinary traditions.