Junior Canadian Rangers Test out Elder’s Treat
By Peter Moon
FORT SEVERN – WASHAHO Cree Nation – Learning how to prepare, cook, and eat caribou heads was a highlight of a day’s training on the land for Junior Canadian Rangers in Fort Severn.
“Most of them had never done it before,” said Warrant Officer Ron Wen, a Canadian Army instructor. “For most of them it was a great experience.”
Eight frozen heads were donated to the Junior Rangers by elders in Fort Severn , a small Cree community near the Hudson Bay coast that is Ontario’s most northerly settlement.
The Junior Canadian Rangers is an army program for boys and girls aged 12 to 18 in remote and isolated communities.
“Only a couple of the Junior Rangers had eaten caribou heads before,” said Junior Ranger Brianna Miles. ‘People don’t eat them any more. Only the elders do it now. I like them. I like the nose part the best and then the tongue. It tastes good.”
The heads were prepared for eating while the Junior Rangers spent a day outside the community learning how to build emergency shelters and emergency signal fires.
“First, you cook the heads in a fire,” Warrant Officer Wen said. “They’re placed in the fire and then you remove them and you shave off the hair. You have to do it eight or nine times with an hour of burning in between shavings.
“Once the head is shaved of all the hair it’s placed in boiling water and boiled. When it’s boiled it’s ready to eat. There’s a lot of meat in the head and traditionally it’s been considered a delicacy. You eat the cheeks, the snout, the tongue, and you cut the meat in thin slices. You eat the eyeballs, too, and the Junior Rangers ate them as well.`
While the Junior Rangers were adventurous and ate and enjoyed the caribou head meat Warrant Officer Wen said he decided to stick with a military field ration instead. “He should have tried it,” Junior Ranger Miles said. “He would have liked it. I do.”
The cooked heads that were not eaten were distributed to elders in the settlement to eat.
(Sergeant Peter Moon is the public affairs ranger for the 3rd Canadian Patrol Group at Canadian Forces Base Borden.)