Crossing over the 60th parallel in Alberta, the Northwest Territory begins. Just beyond the border are numerous turnouts that supply historical, geographic, and demographic data along with fantastic scenery of the Hay River. At 1 of these stops is a sign that told of an ancient Athabascan nation that used to live in this area. With an unpronounceable name and difficult spelling, they just became the A-tribe and its name, translated into English, is “going to the hole in the snow.” As a migratory tribe, they would shift between the Great Slave Lake (summer) and the terrain near present day, High Level, Alberta (winter). Hunters, gatherers, and fishermen were these hardy people who lived in small, mobile groups and completed their circle of life with a unique ritual of death. When an elder hunter faltered in strength and mobility, they would wait for the late fall and start giving away all their worldly possessions to whom they felt deserved it. With hunting weapons, fishing gear, and warm clothing dispersed amongst the klan, there was but 1 thing left to do. On a winter’s evening, the lone man would walk away from his lifelong family and struggle out into the snow. When he deemed he reached his chosen place, he would lie down in the snow and slowly die of hypothermia. He offered his flesh to the forest animals for their dead ancestors had given their lives up to their tribes. Their sacrifices have been satisfied. The “going to the hole in the snow” is in reference to the last remaining body heat melting the corpse into the snow. When the white man came to the area over 200 years ago, they saw a travesty of asset management and intervened. Offering a few beads to the recipients in exchange for their exquisite works, the brokers then sold these valuable items to museums and rich art collectors everywhere. If not for these historical saviors, those precious items may have missed the auction block and these superb, gift items would have been lost forever. 

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