Lutsel K’e Elder J.C. Catholique said it was a “scary moment” when Environment and Natural Resources officers raided a Lutsel K’e First Nation cultural camp at Timber Bay, on Artillery Lake, last September, searching for illegally harvested caribou meat in a mobile no-hunting zone.

It’s clear the impact of the territorial government’s actions will not soon be forgotten.

“It was nothing like I would ever expect to see, something I have never been a part of before,” said Catholique. “I’ve always had that freedom to go where I wanted to go, and have a good time — you know, in my part of the country. So, you know, to have authorities come in and make you feel powerless, you know? You can’t do anything on your homeland… so it was a tense moment.

“They came in and pretty well demanded that they search the camp.

“And as far as I was concerned, you know, we didn’t hunt the (caribou) in that no-hunting zone. Because, at a community level, we had a public meeting before and we developed a caribou stewardship plan and the whole community agreed that we wouldn’t hunt in that no-hunting zone. Because it’s our way of showing that we will do whatever it takes to bring back that caribou herd,” Catholique added.

In December, News/North reported that at a recent Dene Nation Leadership meeting “the delegates unanimously voted to seek an apology, a full investigation into the incident and the resignations of the GNWT staff who participated in the authorization of the search.”

Archie Catholique spoke strongly about next steps, saying, “Someone at that level — the minister Shane Thompson — should do the right thing and apologize to the people of Lutsel K’e. And if he doesn’t do that, then this whole thing looks like it’s based on discrimination, on racism. You know, our people have a treaty, right? …But there was no land or anything that was discussed at that time. It was just between the two governments to set up — it was for peace and friendship, that’s what it was, so we could live together. That’s still never happened to this day.

“If that Wildlife Act wasn’t pushed down the throat of Indigenous people, you would never see that today, what happened in Timber Bay. That has never had the input of Indigenous people. Legislation they write, and then they bring (Indigenous peoples) in after the fact, and we’re told there is no room for improvement. It might be the same thing down the road.

“What the GNWT may have forgotten,” Archie adds with a hushed seriousness, “is that they do not represent the Crown. We have a treaty. The prime minister is talking about reconciliation. What does that mean? In my mind, here, it is always to implement the treaty — the treaty of 1900, right? But there is always a hush about sovereignty — they don’t want to talk about that.

“But they’ll have to deal with that sometime. They will have to deal with it down the road. It will have to be discussed.”

According to the ENR website, Thompson is quoted saying, “Our government is listening. We are working with Indigenous governments and organizations. We are taking action as partners so future generations will be able to harvest. We have increased the enforcement presence along the winter road by truck, snow machine, and helicopter. We are looking out for illegal meat sales online and in our communities. We are asking people to follow the law and laying charges against those who do not.”

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