The following text is part of Forests - The past foretold, the fourth journal of the Comitee for territorial defence and decolonisation. The whole journal is available in web version here. If you want to have it in paper form, or to distribute it in your community, contact us at email@example.com to get your copies (everything’s free including shipping)
As many hunters you know that we talk to, the arguments are that they have a right to hunt, a right to come in La Vérendrye to harvest moose. But we see it otherwise; we see it as a privilege. For us, people that live here, that occupied land, it’s a way of life for us, it sustains our families. It’s what we call our inherent right. Our inherent right gives us the right to harvest the moose, feed our families, share with others when in need. But the hunters are so ignorant in understanding the difference between an inherent right and a privilege. See, a privilege is giving to them through an act, which is an act of law; it’s man-made. When we speak our law, we speak about natural law, that’s where our inherent right comes from, natural law. Our constitution is embedded in nature.
There is a fish that carries our constitution. (Among the Anishinabeg, the bones of fish such as the sturgeon provide information according to their disposition). For man-made law, it is written on a piece of paper and can be changed at the will of the people, at the will of politicians. And this is where their privilege comes from, it’s an act. So, when they come into the park, what they don’t understand, they have to pay for that privilege. So in reality, it’s not a right. It’s something that the Canadian and provincial government have been misleading their people to believe that they have the right to come here and hunt. If this was the case, and if it was true, that every man has the right to hunt wherever he pleases, then why do they have no hunting signs, no trespassing signs on private properties that municipalities sell out to individuals, private land owners.
So, for us, a privilege can be revoked and this is what we’re asking and telling, and demanding, and taking the lead on to revoke this privilege that the organisation SEPAQ (Société des établissements de plein air du Québec) has given to their hunters, to come here and exercise their privileges as they say. But you know it’s interfering now with our way of life. It’s becoming cultural genocide. They are attacking our food source. They’re depleting our food source. Our food source is our identity. The moose has been sacred to our people for many years. He has provided clothing. He has provided tools. He has provided food and he also provides medicine to our people. A lot of this stuff, that non-natives and the sports hunters are unaware of, what a moose carries for us. In return, we give the moose respect. We learn through our shaking tents how a moose wanted his body that he used after his spirit has left, he has given us his meat to eat. How we are to cut it up, how we are to divide it up to different families, share it among each other. Use all his body parts, his organs.
And put away what’s left over. It’s something that we practise, and a lot of us follow that teaching. Moose is very important for our people. And it would be a great loss to all of us. Not only our people, but non-Natives too. It was a way that we help the newcomers when they first came here. The moose was in abundance all across Canada. Now it’s only certain pockets now, you find moose. In parks, in lands set aside for conservation. They are no longer looked at by non-natives as essential food source. It’s looked at as a game, a trophy. When they kill a moose, they ride around with the head on their truck for days, until the head is rotten. And then they cut the horns off, and they throw the rest away. Little do they know they are throwing away food.
The moose is also very intelligent. A lot of people look at them and they say: it’s such a big ugly, clumsy-looking animal… But don’t let them fool you. They are as graceful, and as swift, and as silent as a mouse when they go walk through the forest. They can sneak up on you. They know where people are. They hear people from far away. The moose know when they’re safe, and where they’re safe. They know where to search for security. Our grandmother always told us: when you’re in the bush, and you live there, the animals come close. Because predators will tend to stay away. Same thing with the moose, from wolves and bears. If you are there, they are going to be near. The moose will stay near to you, wherever your camp is. That’s how they survived for hundreds and hundreds of years. They know when to migrate into other areas for the winter, search for food. What is becoming difficult for them, with all the clear cutting, logging and forestry activities?
This is the way it was years ago, when there was a lot of moose. They were all around. So the moose are aware of what’s going on. All the animals have that sense of what’s happening and sometimes they have more sense than humans. They sense danger, they sense the weather, they sense when they’re going to have a calf, or the safe place to have a calf. So they are aware of all their surroundings, all the time.
The life here for the moose is becoming very difficult. And their ways, their habit, how they move around, they had to change their ways of how they move through the season, and where they move to. They’re evolving in a sense that… to something that’s come upon them that’s very negative. It all stands from man, man and their destruction. This is why we’ve put up the moratorium. The moose will come into a lot of our people’s dreams, he knows where to go. He knows where his spirit travels, he knows who could help him. And he knows who won’t help him. So, he is very intelligent. If someone would know how a moose lives, how he speaks, and understand his calls in fall. We call their calls in fall their love calls, but there is much more meaning to that for a moose.
You know, I’ve called moose for many years now. And it’s almost like a language. I’d say it is a language. But it’s moose language. They have different tones, different ways they sound, for different meanings. We understand that. I understand it when I go hunting in the search for a moose. It’s something very special., I’m very proud to be able to understand their calls, what I’ve been taught by my ancestors, grandparents, my father. You’re grandparents, and grandfathers, can only teach you so much. But it’s the moose that’ll teach you a lot more.
If you spend time listening to them, without hurting them. Listen to them at night, in the morning. They do speak. And it’s a language not everybody knows. We know when a moose is hurting. We know when a moose needs help. It’s something that our people have knowledge of. They have their ways of showing us, and our people have their ways and knowledge to identify, and recognise, without interfering with them, without having direct contact with them. We understand the moose. Modern science does not understand the moose. They only understand formulas, they only understand statistics. Our people go on facts, and traditional science is what we call it. Many call it traditional knowledge, but it’s actually a science that has all been proven. It’s all factual.