Hunters from a B.C. First Nation have returned from a traditional hunt in Jasper National Park after harvesting six animals over a five-day stretch.
The traditional harvest by members of the Simpcw First Nation, who live 70 kilometres north of Kamloops, took place from Oct. 6 to Oct. 10 near the Snaring River in the park.
The First Nation was relocated from its traditional lands near the Snaring River to B.C. more than a century ago.
Simpcw First Nation Chief Nathan Matthew was one of nine hunters on the trip. The group included a woman hunter, two youths, and elders and others who were there for support.
Matthew called the hunt a success, as the group harvested six animals in total: three elk, two bighorn sheep and one whitetail deer, all of which will be shared by the community. One of the young men on the trip harvested his first elk.
But the trip wasn’t just a success for the harvest.
“It was pretty emotional,” Matthew told Mark Connolly on CBC’s Edmonton AM. “We had an elder who was a descendant of the people that were there.
“She was really taken by the whole experience.”
Parks Canada helped co-ordinate the hunt and closed off a section near the Snaring River. In a news release, it reiterated support for the traditional harvest and said the six animals killed would not impact the sustainability of wildlife populations in the park.
“Parks Canada was proud to support the Simpcw First Nation to conduct traditional harvest activities in Jasper National Park in a safe and sustainable way,” Alan Fehr, a field unit superintendent, said in the release.
Reconciliation and recognition
Matthew said the Simpcw people used to live near the Snaring River. “We were the Snaring people,” he said.
But he said disease, conflict with other First Nations and the government setting boundaries for the park pushed them off their traditional land in the late 1800s.
He said the First Nation had another village at Tête Jaune Cache near Valemount, B.C., for about 20 years.
“We were forcefully removed from there in 1916 and people moved down to Chu Chua, which is 70 kilometres north of Kamloops,” Matthew said.
Since the move, members of the First Nation have been trying to reconnect with land they once lived on. The traditional hunt in Jasper National Park was another step toward reconciliation for the First Nation, and the government’s recognition of the importance of the hunt was key to Matthew.
“We’re talking a lot and getting a lot better understanding about the natures of our rights,” he said. “It’s good to have this kind of conversation looking forward.”