Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"...even the unmentionables."

“A caribou herd in decline - a way of life in jeopardy. Natives’ fight for right to hunt mysteriously disappearing species threatens to undermine an entire government.”

So read the headline in the May 5, 2010 edition of the GLOBE AND MAIL, written by a Patrick White.

As an Inuvialuit (Inuit) of Tuktoyaktuk in Canada’s western arctic, I grew up on a diet heavy with “country foods” including the caribou. Back then, conservation was not an issue as my Father harvested as many as he could. One of my many cousins once said, “we have the best food in the world.” Like Bertha Mackenzie of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation said in that article and referring to a freezer full of dead caribou, “Oh sure we use the heads. We use everything. Even the unmentionables.” Meaning, of course, when the caribou are harvested, nothing is wasted. Now, according to the government, the caribou are “declining at a unknown rate and for unknown reasons.”

So, what is worth mentioning?

There are always two sides to a coin; perhaps on this issue they are conservation versus consumption. Perhaps it can be regulations versus treaty rights? In any case, both sides will come to a head on May 18, 2010. Based on the perceived low numbers of caribou, the Northwest Territories government had imposed a ban throughout the range of the Bathurst caribou around Great Slave Lake where the Yellowknives Dene First Nation occupy. Challenging that ban, apparently, Jonas Sangris, a former chief and hunter of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation will “appear at a Supreme Court hearing on May 18 where his lawyer will argue that he has a treaty right to hunt and fish and suggest the ban may be a government ploy to assert powers it is slowly losing to First Nations governments.” I, and others, will be following the ruling with great interest from the Supreme Court.

So, what else is worth mentioning?

It is well known that First Nations have Aboriginal and/or Treaty rights to hunt and fish and the Crown (government) has the duty to consult especially when and if those rights may be impacted by resource development or for some other reason. My gist on this is Jonas Sangris and all natives will win. Standby on May 18.

After all, if I was back home in Tuktoyaktuk and the caribou were nearby, I would be awfully tempted to fill my freezer with caribou and enjoy the meat…even the unmentionables.”