The latest problem that we have to fight for on the heels of the Wet'suwet'en protests is the Mi'kmaq fishing controversy.
Remember the Million Dollar Duck story? Eddie Sikyea's father Michel, a well-respected traditional man and leader having been signatory to Treaty 11, was charged with shooting a duck at Long lake in the 60's. Sikyea had to go to court to fight for his right to go duck hunting on his own territory. Shame on the government for spending a million dollars to try to tell him he's not allowed and fining him $1 at the end of the day after he won his right to hunt in an expensive court battle.
This is what Indigenous peoples are up against all the time. Sadly, not a whole lot has changed since the 1960s. What about Paul Betsina? He shot a caribou in the off season and was taken to court to which he pleaded guilty and paid a fine, but what would have happened if he took it all the way to the Supreme Court? I'm sure he would have won but the fact of the matter is that he shouldn't have had to fight to prove his inherent rights.
Marshall and Gladstone set the grounds for Aboriginal Rights in these areas yet we as Indigenous peoples still bear the burden of proof when we should not have to. Yes, we have Aboriginal Rights, but the court says that our rights can be infringed at any time with justification on the grounds of limitations such as conservation. But it wasn't the Indigenous peoples that dwindled the population of certain species and threatened fish stocks with overfishing. If that were the case, like the dodo bird, there would be no more ptarmigan in the North because they are not very smart. Conservation shouldn't even be a conversation when it comes to the rights of Indigenous peoples to hunt and gather.
Messing up the order of nature's process has never been an issue for Indigenous peoples. For centuries Indigenous peoples left little impact on ecosystems. There were reasons why our ancestors didn't stay in one place for too long, so the earth could heal from our use of it in keeping with the balances of nature. Those are the laws that govern Indigenous peoples, and yes some of these laws have been lost through colonialism but they are still there and are practiced by most. Indigenous peoples have never tried playing God. We don't mess with what the Creator made.
We often let nature run its course and figure itself out. The reason why we are in such a predicament with the sickness of Mother Earth is because humans have tried playing God for far too long through science in particular in agriculture and it's backfiring.
This past weekend I took my children to Goldstream River, it's a beautiful place on Vancouver Island where the salmon spawn upstream. There were three men, a father and his two sons, wading through the shallows with spear in hand, asserting their traditional rights in an area that was deemed a provincial park next to a busy highway that rips right through their Nation. When tourists see them in the water they frown at them and some tell the they have no right to be there but they tell me they just ignore the ignorant comments and keep going because at one point they stood on their territory and told the government not to build a highway through their mountains and streams but they were ignored too. So tell me, who has the right?
The Mi'kmaq have every right to fish commercially if they want to yet the courts try claiming that Indigenous peoples did not practice commercial fishing or have economies before colonization so they shouldn't have the opportunity to generate a livelihood from commercial fishing in current times. It's a lame reason and one that needs to be thrown out. Indigenous rights are ever evolving. Indigenous peoples had economies in trade before contact, not just ceremonial practices.
Yet, these types of barriers to Indigenous prosperity were created out of fear, the settlers were afraid of us. Afraid because Indigenous peoples knew how to get by on very little, we did not rely on falsities, we were experts on the land. Settlers relied on Indigenous peoples for assistance but they did not want to have to rely on us so they built their laws to try to keep us out. These barriers are now being broken and their agendas have failed because what they did not know is that Indigenous peoples don't give up easily
We have each other's back when times get tough as it is clearly displayed all over Turtle Island during these land defending protests that will continue on and on until Indigenous rights are respected and upheld.