Athabascans were masters at designing a variety of shelters—simple and functional—that kept them both warm and mobile as they set out to hunt and trade.
Emergency shelters were constructed in minutes.
A wandering hunter could pile up brush to crawl under at night, dig a hole in as snow bank and ice over the interior with the heat of an oil lamp, or construct a conical tent by bending over and lashing together several alders, covering them with bark or caribou skin. Dirt and moss piled high along the sides provided insulation. A second layer of skin, moss, a thatch of grass, or willow brush kept out the rain.
The ends of a tent or lean-to were usually left open so hunters could keep watch.
Double lean-tos for larger groups were made by sharing a common frame and facing the opening.
(Inscription under the photo in the upper right)
Winter tent somewhere along the Yukon River, c.1898. In pre-contact times, the covering would have been of caribou skin instead of canvas.
(Inscription under the photo in the lower right)
Summer fish camp, 1919. This fish camp at the mouth of the Tolovana River, with birch bark canoes and dip nets in the foreground, also shows the use of post-contact canvas tents.