IPS: Accompanying the Hunters at Short Hills

by Indigenous Peoples Solidarity

 AccompanyingFor the second year, CPTers were among the supporters of the November Haudenosaunee deer harvest at Short Hills Provincial Park in Thorold, Ontario. In past years, Haudenosaunee hunters entering or leaving the park have been subjected to anti-hunt protesters surrounding their vehicles with flashlights aimed in hunter’s faces, waving placards and calling out various derogatory statements. In response, Supporters of the Haudenosaunee Right to Hunt organised to accompany the hunters and demonstrate respect for this exercise of treaty and inherent rights, joined by the Indigenous Peoples Solidarity team beginning in November 2014.

In addition to the Hunters, in the past local Haudenosaunee who came out in support also endured racism and harassment from protesters. The presence of supporters (includng CPTers) practicing nonviolent intervention and deescalation helped to change that dynamic. The second evening of the hunt saw Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe people drumming and singing to create a positive atmosphere, turning a tense protest site into a celebratory sharing of culture, music and food as the hunters headed home.

The team helped to set up a ‘Peace Table’ on site, funded in part by local churches and supplied by the vegan activist catering co-op Food Not Bombs, as a CPT-style ‘experiment in peacemaking’. The Peace Table had food and hot drinks for everyone, including hunters, supporters, anti-hunt protesters, police and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR). It also served as a place for passers-by to learn what was happening. The aim was to shift the oppositional nature of the protest/supporter divide and invite non-Indigenous Canadians to relate to their Haudenosaunee neighbours in a better way.

Since the last hunt, local allies have been busy creating dialogue with the communities of hunt protesters. This includes animal rights activists, local property owners with safety concerns, and even non-native hunters seeking the right to hunt in the park. The success of these outreach efforts is shown in the contingent of animal rights activists that joined the supporters, demonstrating that a commitment to animal rights does not require opposing the rights of the Haundenosaunee over their territory.

The new Canadian government has named the need for reconciliation. The Supporters of the Haudenosaunee Right to Hunt know that Canada’s existence is based upon treaty relationships with Indigenous peoples. Understanding that the Nanfan Treaty of 1701 guarantees the right to hunt for Haudenosaunee peoples is critical to healing the relationships between Haudenosaunee and settlers in Southern Ontario. The Nanfan Treaty was affirmed in R. vs. Ireland (1990) when it was ruled that the treaty is a living document.

Brian Skye, member of the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority (HWHA) says, “that [treaty] relationship is based on mutual respect, trust and friendship. Our respect for safety has ensured we conduct ourselves accordingly. Our trust is that we are allowed to continue to practice our traditional methods of harvesting within the context of our mutual understanding of conservation. We continue to hope to build on the relationship so that we may understand that the accommodation that all parties have undertaken will result in a natural balance. The ecosystem needs to rebound so that indigenous plants and medicines can survive without invasive species being allowed to thrive.”

The MNR has identified deer overpopulation as one of the main reasons for devastated landscapes where flora and fauna are consumed to the point of erasure in the area. The crowding of deer herds into close proximity increases the spread of disease, which heightens the potential for harmful contact with nearby human communities.

The land management partnership between MNR and HWHA has the potential to develop a real nation-to-nation relationship, where the rights, needs and skills of different communities are balanced in such a way that all are supported and the land is sustained for future generations.