Treat us right, respect our treaty rights

In just a couple of hours the annual Deer Hunt at Short Hills Provincial Park will begin. This year, like years previous, will be highly controversial. The controversy you ask, well the hunt is being held at a provincial park and the only people allowed to hunt are those who are members of the Six Nations community.

Since inception the hunt has received backlash from animal rights groups, hunters and concerned citizens. These protestors show up by the dozens and make their presence known.

Seems simple enough, right? Well unfortunately it’s not. Co Host of One Dish, One Mic and Co Chair of the Niagara Anti-Racism Coalition Karl Dockstader, has penned a letter that states, “Opposition to the Haudenosaunee Deer Hunt in Shorthillls Park cannot be separated from racism. Opposing the deer hunt by indigenous hunters, whether intended to do so or not, is supporting the worst parts of Canada’s racist legacy and perpetuates policies of assimilation. Antagonizing a group of people because you believe that your group’s views are superior is the very definition of racism.” This letter has stirred up a fair amount of controversy over the implication of the protestors being racist. Protestors refute the claim. Now, if you look at the scenario at face value, I could understand one’s hesitation to use the term. What people fail to acknowledge is that this issue is bigger than just a hunt. There is more to this then the protections of animals, the park and neighbourhoods. While the protestor’s intent might be good, their actions are the same actions of those people who use to protest the very existence of indigenous people.

The history of Indigenous people and the Country of Canada is horrific at best. Legislatively speaking, indigenous people were not considered people under the Indian Act. Indigenous people could not pursue higher education without loosing their rights. They also couldn’t higher lawyers, or even vote. Canada has not been kind. Nor has its citizens.

While the Indian Act was being developed and policies were implemented, the Canadian government also signed treaties with its Indian Allies (Indian being the preferred noun of the time). The treaties guaranteed certain inalienable rights; the right to hunt on traditional grounds being one of them.

Given that it was the 1700’s you need to understand how important that right was and still is today. There was no Wal-Mart or Costco; there was no corner store. There was only hunting, fishing and farming. Hunting was not done for sport or bragging rights, it was done to survive. First Nations would base their life off of the location of the animals. If they moved, we would follow. Hunting was also more than food too. Every aspect of the animal that was killed was used. The hide was used for clothes and blankets. Bones were utilized for tools and weapons, etc. In the 1700’s, a successful hunt meant a successful life.

Decades after Confederation though, pro-enfranchisement policies became the norm. The Government was so hell-bent on solving the Indian problem that their answer was to systematically remove our rights. So when it comes to people protesting the deer hunt, it is reminiscent of those policies. You have to understand that you are protesting more than just the act. You are protesting my very existence. Your Protest, like Karl Dockstader said, “…whether intended to do so or not, is supporting the worst parts of Canada’s racist legacy and perpetuates policies of assimilation.”

While you might not see the correlation between the protest and racism, I can assure you that it is there. It is no different than individuals protesting our language or our culture. You cannot separate the hunt from who we are as a people. Hunting is intertwined with our cultural identity. It is intertwined with us.

I am not from Six Nations of the Grand River. That is not my community. I am not afforded the right to hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park, but I still stand in solidarity with my indigenous brothers and sisters. I will attend the counter protest to ensure that people who view our way of life as inferior do not undermine our inalienable rights.

I would encourage the readers to visit the United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People‘s website. Article # 2 states:

“Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.”

If you stand in solidarity, I would encourage you to come out in support.

Sincerely,

Sean Vanderklis

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One Comment on “Treat us right, respect our treaty rights

  1. Excellent!
    With this well scripted and thought out statement you have shed a bright light on the issue of racism and bigotry right here in our own backyard.
    You are correct, the ‘hunt’ is used as a guise for spewing hateful slurs in the name of ‘saving the deer’. Opposition to the hunt is just one more example of the cultural genocide that white privilege continues to inflict upon the Indigenous people of this country. It is wrong and it is shameful.
    Please know that there are many who stand with you. There are many of us who respect your native heritage, your native culture and yes, “respect the treaties”.

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