The environment produced a considerable amount of emotional and physical stress for the Sekani. Hunting, even with the help of good medicine, was routinely unsuccessful. Black considered the Sekani to be ‘ poor hunters even amongst cattle. Five or six of the best hunters could not feed Rocky Mountain Portage House last winter’. (Black: 205)

Death and sickness were constant worries and custom prevented a Sekani man from openly showing his grief and anguish. A woman could scream at her husband when the packs were too heavy, or cry and wail when her child died, but the child’s father was expected to be ‘ like a true Philosopher unmoved’. (Black: 74)

Sekani society had few organized ways of relieving stress. Gambling was a favourite activity, but it is uncertain if it relieved much tension. The frequency of wife-beatings, murders and revenge-killings suggests a culture wherein highly stresses individuals have no ritualized ways to reduce tension to safe levels without endangering themselves or others.

The arrival of Europeans piled further stress on the Sekani. These strong, wealthy, confident and domineering intruders demanded labour and a concentration on fur trapping which seriously interfered with the traditional round of Sekani life. The traders did, however, bring with them a new means of relieving stress — alcohol — and these ‘quiet and inoffensive people’ (Harmon: 130) adopted it.

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