October 7, 2017
An Indigenous community from central British Columbia is in Jasper National Park to hunt deer, sheep and elk, causing the temporary closure of the area to the public.
“We’re determined to exercise our title and right within our territory,” said Simpcw First Nation Chief Nathan Matthew on Friday.
Nine hunters will pursue mule deer, whitetail deer, bighorn sheep and elk in an area east of Snaring River, north of Highway 16 and the Athabasca River. A handful of other people will provide support during the hunt, Oct. 6 to 13.
Matthew explained community hunts are an integral part of Indigenous culture.
“We wanted to re-establish our presence in various ways in Jasper National Park,” he said. “It’s on the eastern side of our territory.”
Simpcw First Nation is located in central British Columbia, nearly 400 kilometres southwest of Jasper townsite.
Matthew said the hunt was carefully planned. The hunters are permitted to harvest a maximum of 10 animals, based on park surveys of the species.
“We’ve definitely kept away from caribou … which are endangered everywhere,” he said. “We take the information we receive from Jasper National Park biologists respecting conservation concerns they have for any populations.”
Several other Indigenous groups were consulted supported the hunt, said Steve Young, spokesman for Jasper National Park.
“The Simpcw First Nation has been communicating with Parks Canada for a number of years on their wish to hold a traditional harvest on their traditionally used lands within the boundaries of Jasper National Park,” he said in a statement Friday.
“Conservation and public safety are shared priorities for Parks Canada and the Simpcw First Nation … mule deer, whitetail deer, bighorn sheep and elk may be harvested. Harvest rates will be kept within a sustainable level … and will not have an impact on the sustainability of the wildlife populations in Jasper National Park.”
Jasper National Park was formed in 1907, one of several mountain national parks created between 1885 and 1914. The legislation and management of Canada’s parks failed to consider Indigenous traditions at the time.
The hunt — which both Matthew and Young emphasized is a key part of reconciliation efforts — is governed under a written agreement with the parks authority.
“When we first proposed it … there was a little bit of surprise and maybe concern,” Matthew noted. “We had to have conversations about the nature of our rights.”
Clare Clancy – Edmonton Journal