Indigenous people have lived in relation with their land from time immemorial. Wildlife provided food, tools, and clothing that were used locally and for trading purposes. Today, Immemorial (Inherent), Treaty, Constitutional and International rights guarantee access to the land and its wildlife for local, regional, national and international purposes, whether those purposes be local or as a base to a modest Indigenous economy. Non-Indigenous people become alarmed with talk of indigenous people asserting their right to hunt and fish to the economic benefit of their communities, but applaud when non-Indigenous sport hunters have hunting limits increased. It should be pointed out that Indigenous people in Canada did not deplete the Grand Banks cod stocks, exhaust the Great Lakes’ fisheries, destroy the Pacific fishery and did not hunt buffalo to the brink of extinction. Every battle lost by fish and wildlife resulting in their depletion anywhere in North America was lost through colonizing European policies. Indigenous wildlife harvest management defined by traditional Indigenous law and guidelines does not waste fish and wildlife in the pursuit of wealth or in the name of sport.
We have already mentioned the need for a northern country food infrastructure to reverse starvation trends in the Arctic. Part of that would include a wildlife harvest management system.
The traditional Indigenous infrastructure of wildlife harvest management for food and trade was destroyed in Canada by the policy of forced Indigenous assimilation. As a result, non-Indigenous people can not see how appropriate and respectful an Indigenous wildlife harvest management infrastructure is. They assume that reestablished wildlife harvest management and trade would function like their factory fish trawlers, destroying everything caught in its path. This is simply not true. Why does a nuisance bear, killed because it is a danger to a community, have to be thrown into the dump. Why are its fur, meat, gallbladder, and other byproducts not harvested to the economic benefit of an Indigenous hunter and his community?
Exuberant deer populations, rampaging bears and flood-causing beaver populations (as examples) need to be harvest-managed. Indigenous people (First Nation, Inuit and Métis) have the right to reestablish their wildlife harvest management systems as a part of self-determination. With an appropriate wildlife veterinary infrastructure upon which a harvest management infrastructure can be built, surplus deer populations, nuisance beaver and dangerous bears can be respectfully harvested and their meat and by-products safely used to support a base traditional economy for Indigenous communities. Wildlife harvest management to the economic benefit of Indigenous people is a step toward reducing poverty while promoting traditional lifestyles and roles which in turn support self-determination.
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