I want to thank Tlicho Grand Chief George Mackenzie and Lutsel K’e Chief Darryl Marlowe for condemning the shooting several weeks ago of more than 80 Bathurst caribou in a mobile no-hunting zone, and I share their concern. Wasted meat and parts from another 12 caribou were found outside the zone in more recent weeks.
This was an act of theft as well since the animals did not stand a chance and because of the loss, valuable food has been taken from those who need it today and tomorrow.
People drove there in their trucks or on their Ski-Doos and laid waste to a herd that has declined by 98 per cent in the last 30 years; from almost half a million animals in the mid 1980s (470,000 animals) to only about 8,200 today. This senseless kill was not an act of the brave and required no hunting prowess at all – it was a tragedy. If you know who did this and you are not telling the authorities, you need to. Otherwise you are unwitting accomplices to this crime.
Those caribou could have fed people in the communities, the elders, the children, but instead, their food was taken when they needed it the most. This means that not only will they not have food today, it could mean that there will be no food for people tomorrow since the lives of females were lost too.
Acts such as this disrespect gifts from the Creator which were meant to keep people alive, but because these animals were needlessly shot down, people who need this food will go without and can ill afford to buy its replacement.
The manner in which these animals were killed is not hunting. To drive somewhere in vehicles or on snowmobiles and shoot at random, young and old alike with rapid fire guns is not skilful. And thanks to this senseless act and others like it, the government is now going ahead with an aerial kill of wolves to save the endangered caribou herds whose numbers have been so badly decimated by the roads built to the mines, by legislators removing their protected feeding and calving areas and by careless harvesting. We are all guilty of this decline in numbers and now everything is paying the price. The sound of helicopters used to be magic. Now we know that many are just being used to carry aerial hunters to their destination to kill other victims – the wolves – who are paying the price for conditions created by humans. If we continue with this behaviour and not take the health of the caribou herds into every decision we make, we will contribute to the end of the caribou altogether. And as we all know, the health of the herds is synonymous with the health of the North.
So again, thank you to the chiefs for speaking up about this act – encouraging our leaders to take right action is up to us all. Now, it is up to Elders, seasoned hunters, and those who care about the land and animals to educate the young on more skilful behaviour and the protection of what we have – teaching everyone that every animal taken is a gift from that animal itself and the Creator. When that gift is lost, so too is life.
The Creator will stop providing if the limits of nature are pushed too far.
Again, if you know who killed these caribou out of the controlled area, it is contingent on you to report it to the appropriate authorities so that these people can get the education they need. It is the only way to stop these kinds of activities. And if you truly want to make a difference, encourage your leaders, at all levels, to be pro-active when it comes to protecting the herds. They will go extinct if we fail to act.
Give them a chance.