Deline harvesters turn to traditional hunting practices

Deline harvesters turn to traditional hunting practices
Bluenose East caribou.File photo.

As the community of Deline comes together for meetings regarding its Caribou Forever Plan and harvest management this week, many members will simultaneously be planning ways to action its principles - namely, diversifying the harvest.

Later this month, youth will take to the land with experienced harvesters for a wintertime fish camp, where they will have the chance to learn about food security issues and how to address them in the long term, using traditional harvesting methods. This will be the second camp organized through the project, the first held last fall.

The camp is part of a Health Canada funded study on climate change its impact on the land and the people who live there.

“Through some of this funding we’re able to provide money for community harvests so we’re up here trying to plan the next harvest where we get elders and youth and as many people as we can,” said Andrew Spring, the head researcher on the project, in from Wilfrid Laurier University. “It’s great because the elders get on the land and they’re able to teach the younger harvesters the skills they need.”

The participatory action research – which sees researchers work with the community to identify and solve issues – was initiated by the Deline Renewable Resources Council, and is also supported by the Northern Farm Training Institute and Ecology North.

“We look at how climate change is affecting their ability to be on the land and there are certainly concerns about that, but it really comes down to is the element of knowledge and community concern about – do we have the community knowledge to harvest other species or harvest any species? Do we treat all these species with the proper respect according to the traditions of the community?” Spring said. “What started out as two parallel projects have really started to overlap a bit.”

Youth participating in the camp will be taught the traditions and rules of their ancestors: diversify the harvest; share what you get with others; take what you need. At the same time, they will be chanelling the goals of the proposed Caribou Forever Plan, known as the Belarew??le Gots’e?? ?ekwe?? in the Sahtúgot’??n? Dene dialect of Deline.

“I think the concept here is to have better relations with wildlife, to be part of the ecosystem and contribute to it versus being master,” said Walter Bayha, a special advisor to Deline Chief Leonard Kenny. “Deline here is saying we want to hunt the way our grandfathers have because that tells us what we have. That is survival, that is survival with wildlife.”

Ted Mckeinzo, 22, was hired as a youth mobilizer and project manager for the camp. He sees it not only as an opportunity to focus on food security, but as a mechanism to preserve his culture and language.

“I feel like our tradition and our culture should be still alive. I don’t want to see in 50 years that my grandkids can’t speak my language, that hurts the heart and that’s everybody’s concept in this town,” he said. “My job is to try and get as many youth as we can to go out there so they can have a sense of pride about bringing food back to the elders who can’t go out any more. I feel like that would help contribute into pushing them towards keeping the cultural and traditional aspects of their lives alive.

“It feels right; it’s like there’s going to school, learning the ABCs and counting but for us, it’s going out and learning the traditional ways of surviving.”

It’s not easy running these on-the-land exercises, Mckeinzo noted. Despite a high level of interest from local youth, barriers like cost, a lack of equipment, and even school and work responsibilities stand in the way of successfully pulling off opportunities like this.

Learning from our grandfathers

Earlier this year, Deline made the decision to end hunting in the ?kewe zone – in the Tekacho and ?tsere Túe areas, located across from the community on the east s?de of Keith Arm of Great Bear Lake. Caribou in this area are mostly from the Bluenose East Herd.

The Caribou Forever plan is a two-year project that proposes a quota of about 150 caribou per year, a number the harvesters have already reached this hunting season. It has been put forth by Deline First Nation, the Deline Land Corporation and the Sahtu Renewable Resources Board.

At the meetings this week, Environment and Natural Resources representatives will expand on their recommendations as well, which include limiting the harvest of caribou to 163 bulls for Sahtu beneficiaries; proposals for other management measures, including predator management; opposition to potential development activities on caribou calving grounds; support for improved hunter education and use of aboriginal laws and hunting methods to promote respect for wildlife and reduce wastage; and prioritizing accurate harvest monitoring enforcement, without closing the door to community-based, culturally appropriate measures.

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