This weekend a group of Haudenosaunee hunters will gather at Short Hills Provincial Park for six days in ceremony on their traditional lands to hunt deer with bows and arrows. Last year they took home 22 deer. The hunt is also symbolic; as recognized by the Provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and the Nanfan Treaty / 1701 Albany Deed, for these six days the provincial park, usually a place where white settlers walk their dogs, is closed to the public and the hunt takes place.
Last year a group of about 20 white settlers parked their trailers at the park’s entrance, heckling the hunters, ridiculing their drumming and making racist remarks. This year, they have blockaded the entrance and they are swarming and intimidating the hunters. A group of local settlers, as well as Christian Peacemaker Teams who support the treaty and the hunters are trying to call attention to this injustice. Several of my friends have made signs which read “I support First Nations Treaty rights” and other positive messages of support so that the hunters see that not all settlers are racist liars.
As a settler who realizes that I have benefited from colonialism, I can see that this blockade is only making our already bad relationship with the first peoples of this land even worse. This hunt is a symbol of settlers actually fulfilling treaty rights, even if only for six short days a year. These blockaders are destroying the credibility of our government for being fair and just in fulfilling legal promises and obligations. Canadian police should be upholding First Nations treaty rights, not chatting and joking with blockaders and intimidating hunt supporters.
I greatly admire the settlers who are stepping up and standing between the racist blockaders and the hunters who are simply trying to carry out their traditional hunt. This is our responsibility as people who have benefited from colonialism, and next year I will be one of them.
If any of my friends have suggestions for other ways to offer support in this situation, please let me know.
Below is the press release for more information about what’s going on.
LOCALS SUPPORT HAUDENOSAUNEE TREATY RIGHT TO HUNT
AT SHORT HILLS PROVINCIAL PARK
Sat. Dec. 6 and Sun. Dec. 7, 2014, Haudenosaunee hunters will be exercising their treaty-guaranteed right to hunt on their traditional lands. In the face of protest by a few hunting, environmental, and animal rights groups, the Haudenosaunee hunters will be accompanied by locals who support this exercise of their treaty right to hunt, with a peaceful demonstration and dialogue.
Short Hills Provincial Park has hosted the hunt for the last few years as arranged by the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. However, anti-hunt protests and hunt-disruptions marred last year’s hunts.
International human rights observers with Christian Peacemaker Teams will also be present. After reports of sexist and racist verbal violence on the first four days of the 2014 deer hunt (Nov. 23, 23, 27, 28), these observers were invited to accompany treaty rights supporters as well as Haudenosaunee hunters in an effort to de-escalate further aggression and to support a dialogue between community members.
Canada’s constitution includes all treaties and agreements between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples before Confederation, which means that this hunting right (as established through the Nanfan Treaty / 1701 Albany Deed) is constitutionally protected. Everyone should be able to express their opinions on this matter in a respectful way that builds relationships instead of creating divisions and exacerbating tensions. Hopefully a peaceful show of support for the hunters will build dialogue and foster good relations between First Nations and non-Indigenous communities in the area.