INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Short Hills Deer Harvest Becomes the Site of Reconciliation.



15 December 2016

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES SOLIDARITY: Short Hills Deer Harvest Becomes the Site of Reconciliation.

By Rachelle Friesen, Peter Haresnape, Murray Lumley, and Allan Slater

For the last three years, the Haudenosaunee deer harvest in Short Hills Provincial Park has become a place of tension as animal rights advocates have protested the Haudenosaunee right to hunt. The protestors operate under the banner of animal rights and need for safety; however in actuality most of the protestors are local property owners.  This year, although the protests still happened and moments of tension occurred, the overwhelming feeling was one of reconciliation, learning, and decolonization. 

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) has been involved in supporting the Haudenosaunee deer harvest in previous years, providing an avenue of witness, non-violent direct action, documentation and advocacy surrounding the harvest. CPT believes in the importance for the Haudenosaunee to have access to harvest the deer, as enshrined in the treaties. Although we admit that treaties were often signed under duress and deceit, we believe the implementation of the treaties is the basic minimum that Canadian society can do. 

Banners in the protest

Photo by Murray Lumley


CPT was excited this year to report limited confrontation
between the protestors and the hunters and their supporters. There were a few
incidents of protestors harassing the hunters by hitting and kicking a truck. In
a similar case, a protester yelled profanities in the face of one of the
organizers of the reconciliation activities.  

The protestors’ illegal blockade into the park was still
allowed by the police, however the police made sure the hunters access into and
out of the park was stalled for less than a minute to enter the park and
usually 5 minutes to exit.  Although CPT
has concerns that the police allowed for the illegal blockade, we recognize
that if the police had not been present, the protestors could have blocked the
park entirely.

While tension has marred previous years’ harvest, the
overwhelming message of the harvest this year was that of learning,
decolonization, and reconciliation. Throughout the harvest, a supporter fire continuously
burned, tended by Fire-keepers. The supporter fire became a site of warmth,
meditation, prayer, discussion, workshops, and relationship building.

Every day of the harvest included reconciliation activities
and opportunities to learn about colonialism. . Activities included the Blanket
Exercise which is an interactive activity showing how Settlers displaced Indigenous
people from the land, a beading workshop, a drumming workshop, a screening of a
documentary about the rise of diabetes in Indigenous communities and the
importance of having sustainable access to healthy food, an audio art exhibit
asking the question of what it means to be a treaty person, and multiple
discussions on Indigenous history and what it means to be an ally.

The reconciliation work went beyond the scheduled and
planned activities. It was reported that during the evening of one day, the
protestors had brought a megaphone which they were using to drown out the
drumming and singing of the supporters. As the tensions rose a supporter went
to the protestors and began having honest and open conversation. Slowly, more
supporters began to engage in conversation with the protestors. One protestor
who was vegan had a conversation with another vegan supporter.  After the conversation and opportunities to
chat on facebook, the protestor changed and the following week joined the
supporters at the supporter fire.

On the final day of the harvest, the supporters of the
harvest organized a closing ceremony where folks were able to share on the
reflections of the week. From both settlers and Indigenous people, folks shared
how they were beginning to see dialogue as possible to enable the
decolonization process both with each other, in addition to settler supporters
seeing possibilities of trying to bring protestors and other settlers into
dialogue. Four of the hunters joined the group and expressed their thanks to
the assembled supporters. Several vegans and vegetarians spoke including a
representative from the Hamilton and
Halton Animal Liberation Team
. They all suggested in various ways that
reconciliation and recognition of treaty rights must be part of any dialogue.

Throughout the weeks and at the closing ceremony the hand of
friendship was extended. Two police officers witnessed the closing ceremony,
and although they declined to participate, at its conclusion one of the
Fire-keepers gifted them with a dream catcher.

The deer harvest, a once tense confrontation between
hunters, supporters, protestors and police was transformed this year. Although
tensions remained, for many people in attendance the site became a place for
authentic conversation, relationship building, reconciliation and ultimately

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