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Hunt with respect, permission and knowledge of rights

Lloyd Phillips and his daughter Kawisaronkwas will be in Listuguj this weekend looking to nab a moose. The family has long-standing connections in the community and always hunt with permission from the Mi’kmaq community. (Courtesy Lloyd Phillips)


It is “the rut,” the prime time for hunting when animals mate, and many Kahnawa’kehró:non will be on the road this weekend to hunting grounds across the region.

When hunting, there are responsibilities that community members should keep in mind before packing the gun and heading into the mountains.

Mohawk Council of Kahnawake chief Bobby Patton headed east this week as meeting with Mi’kmaq and Maliseet communities in the region to try to come up with hunting and fishing protocols on each other’s communities’ traditional territory.

“We’re trying to create agreements and protocols with other First Nations in nation-to-nation agreements, especially concerning hunting issues,” said Patton.

Permission to hunt, for Patton, should be up to the individual communities, and no one else.

“It shouldn’t be with a provincial regulatory body, it should be with the First Nations because that’s their traditional hunting grounds, and that’s where we need to make it a nation-to-nation, and have our traditional hunting grounds recognized,” he said.

Many local hunters travel to Listuguj in the hopes of felling a moose. The community is currently looking at current and traditional practice, and what the protocol should be on the territory.

Listuguj council communications officer Mike Isaac told The Eastern Door his council is in the process of developing protocols and policies for community members and non-community members regarding hunting practices on the territory. The traditional practice of asking permission and notifying council has always been the best practice to adhere to.

Eric “Dirt” McComber hunts and fishes across the area, and said irresponsible community members have contributed to tensions between the communities in the past.

“It’s people from here that go with guys over there that are doing other things, meaning they’re drinking, they’re shooting moose and not going to get them, (and) they’re paying them,” he said.

Hunter and Peacekeeper Watio Diabo knows of community members who hunted unaccompanied in the eastern nations and without the knowledge of those communities.

“Guys learned the territory and then were going on their own and some of them were harvesting like seven or eight moose, and then trying to come back,” said Diabo. “The communities started to complain and they asked for help.”

In addition to traveling with firearms properly stored, hunters need to know that off the territory, different rules apply officially, he said.

“If you’re going to hunt outside our territory then you need to get the provincial permits to hunt and you have to hunt during their periods,” said Diabo.

When entering another nation’s traditional land, Diabo said, the hunter is expected to follow their rules.

McComber practices what he calls “inter-tribal commerce” where he hunts with permission and gives something in return.

“I help them,” said McComber. “They don’t got a freezer, I’ll get you a walk-in freezer. I’ll go hunt and we’ll trade a moose. You don’t got a gun, here’s a gun.”

McComber and Patton are on the same page when it comes to hunting in other nations’ territory.

“What you do is you ask them for their permission, and also, out of respect, you would have to be accompanied by someone from their nation,” said Patton. “You can barter and trade with each First Nation.”

McComber added he has good relations with game wardens whom he considers friends.

“They give me tags for transport,” said McComber, of hunting in Cattaraugus.

Diabo said most game wardens understand the situation once it’s explained to them, but that some newer wardens at times get overanxious due to not fully understanding the Native right to hunt.

“You’ll get a young guy and he’ll try to apply the Quebec laws, and sometimes you’ll end up in court and then the judge will recognize the rights of the Native and then say, ‘I’m throwing this out. You shouldn’t have even come here,’” he said. “It’s a learning curve for them.”

Patton’s goal is to have an agreement across territories, so everyone knows the rules, and so outside governments stop hassling Onkwehón:we hunters.

“They want to impose all their government and provincial regulations on us, and they want us to fall under their regulations,” said Patton. “They’re trying to extinguish our rights as First Nations people, which we’re totally against.”

With that right, comes responsibility, according to Patton.

“Some people will say, ‘it’s crown land. I’m Native. I can do whatever I want,’” he said. “No, it doesn’t work like that. It creates a lot of disrespect and you ruin it for other people. If you want to protect that and continue to be respected in their territories, we’re always saying: ask permission and be respectful.”

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Daniel J. Rowe is an award-winning reporter and photographer originally from BC. In addition to journalism, he produces and edits a Shakespeare-inspired blog and podcast called the Bard Brawl. His writing has also appeared in the Montreal Gazette, Canadian Press, U.S. Lacrosse magazine and elsewhere. His facial hair rotates with the season, and he’s recently discovered the genius of wearing a cowboy hat. He wrote for The Eastern Door from 2011 to 2019.