Shorthills Protests Are Short On Patience With The Hunters

By Karl Dockstader

(Niagara At Large is pleased too post this commentary from a member of the Native community on the ongoing debate over a limited deer hunt in Niagara, Ontario’s Short Hills Provincial Park.)

Dear Hunters: We don’t want you…

Niagara area residents gather at a meeting hall this past September to debate plans for another deer hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park. Photo by Doug Draper

Niagara area residents gather at a meeting hall this past September to debate plans for another deer hunt in Short Hills Provincial Park. Photo by Doug Draper

The message rings loud and clear. A growing contingency of opposition is making a point to be loud and proud of their opposition to the “massacre” of deer in the Shorthills.If you discount the idiots and racists and politicians who could have done something if they didn’t just pile on at the last minute there is a fair argument against the hunt. The deer are our friends. We love them. They have as much of a right to be here as we do.

These are all valid concerns. All life, two legged and four legged is sacred in the eyes of the Haudenosaunee. There was a time when we lived in perfectly sustainable communities with a delicate balance between nature and mankind. Those times are long gone, though it is interesting to watch as an environmentalist how hard everyone is working to try to restore the out of shift balance between nature and our wretched impact on the poor suffering Mother Earth.

I know that one of the reasons why many First Nations are working so hard to preserve a distinction between our ways and the ways of Canada is that we still have a path back to a balance with Nature. Most Haudenosaunee, including this one, don’t see themselves as citizens of this country because we have been subjects, not participants, all through history. I will not re-hash history for the readers of NAL, but suffice it to say, the Haudenosaunee have historically been at the honourable end of Treaties and “Canada/The Crown” routinely skirted their obligations. In spite of this, Haudenosaunee and many Onkwe:hohnwe People have fought the odds and preserved a natural scheme that could still save Canada from it’s growing American-like obsession with expansion, consumption and development.

Local leaders such as Niagara Regional Councillor Andrew Petrowski, with no evidence or references to his sudden expertise in treaty rights, called into doubt the validity of the Treaty of Albany. This is old hat for politicians, and a sad encore of the past 100 years of leadership from Canadian politicians. It is yet another attempt at the whitepaper.

Many people believe Natives shouldn’t have special rights, they should change into regular everyday Canadians and “get over it.” They shouldn’t kill the deer at shorthills, they should should change their traditions, they should appreciate the park in other ways and not “massacre” the deer. They should “stop whining about treaty rights.”

If the opposition and organizers did not intend to send these messages linked together, they failed. Forced assimilation has no place in the Canada I love. This is not the US melting pot. I can be Haudenosaunee, the protesters can be Canadian, immigrants can bring a rich tapestry of beliefs, languages and cultures into this land and we can all get along in harmony.

When I asked one of our elders what she thought about the controversy around the hunt, she said: “we were told there were too many deer.”

The 1600 acre park is estimated to be able to sustain about 40 deer with an area of 40 acres per deer. The park instead has an estimated 400-600 deer. They have no place to go. This park is a penitentiary for them. Many of the very homeowners who are complaining about the hunt are the very people who live in the developed area around Shorthills Provincial Park creating a prison for the deer. The deer will suffocate the habitat and then be choked out themselves when there is no nature to sustain them. This is cruel way to exile the beautiful beings to a death sentence.

The options are limited, but doing nothing is what has created this problem in the first place. Too little green space, too many deer, not enough habitat. In all likelihood though, the hunters will leave in a week, green space will continue to be erased so that developers can continue to develop, and Niagara will continue to clear cut, starve and ravage the eco-system uncontested. Maybe it’s time that Niagara valued the balance of nature as much as the Haudenosaunee. Maybe there is a path to a natural balance consistent with the ancient sacred beliefs of First Nations. Or maybe there will be enough noise to scare the hunters out of Niagara and defer the problem for someone else to deal with, just like usual.

Karl Dockstader is a resident of Niagara, Ontario and is on the Niagara Regional Native Centre board of directors. He is also a member of the Onyata:aka Nation, though this editorial does not represent the official opinion of either.

(Niagara At Large invites you to share your views on this post. A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who share their first and last name with them.)


19 responses to “Shorthills Protests Are Short On Patience With The Hunters

  1. great points you made.


  2. Sheila Krekorian

    Karl: there are many problems with your “facts” most important of which is that your elder was told “there are too many deer”. MNR released a report in March/13 showing there were 244 deer in the Park, not 500-600 as you claim. This number is down 37% from 2011 which was a drop of 11% from the previous evaluation. The 244 (now minus 20 and counting) are clearly not starving.


  3. I’m not against hunting deer unless it’s in a provincial park with No Hunting signs posted all over the place. I’m sure there are many neighbouring landowners who would agree to an exclusive hunt on their private land. Problem solved.


  4. I just wish whatever is done is done safely and humanely. The thought of people waking up and finding injured, dying or dead deer on their properties is in my mind not ideal. More importantly allowing a deer to die a slow and painful death via the arrow or starvation is no way to go either.
    So what to do? Perhaps that should be the conversation we should be having instead of what is happening…..
    Thank you Karl for your side of the argument and reaffirming the reason why we are having this conversation in the first place…. we have done a great job of screwing our environment up and this is one small example of the outcome…..
    Just sayin……


  5. Actually Mr. Dockstader there is quite a bit of evidence to show that the Haudenosaunee have strayed very far from their roots when they valued the environment and balance of nature; your friends who comprise the HDI(Haudenosaunee Development Institute) have been active for many years in selling land to developers and companies in exchange for fees with the ultimatum that they are either paid or consequences would follow…quite an extortion and protection racket! And how is killing tame deer a way to return to a”path back to balance with Nature”? If this was really a necessary cull the non-native hunters should also have been participants; as far as the so-called “treaty rights” of 1701 is concerned the historical facts are clear, and despite the strong beliefs as to rights and entitlements, the Nanfan Treaty is invalid and does not justify hunting privileges outside those of any citizen of Ontario; the HDI do not speak for all Six Nations people as there is serious factionalism that has been going on for some time between the HDI and the Six Nations Elected Chiefs(Band Council), and this fact is at the root of so many problems involving land claims and other issues; as for the protesters at Short Hills I think there is little doubt that they are no less attached to the land and its wildlife than any aboriginal(Haudeosaunee or otherwise) and perhaps more so in many cases.


  6. Thanks Karl for taking up this cause. People in Niagara need to be aware of the basic principles of ecology and native rights which are bounded together. I have worked many years with the Gibson family to protect the earth through respect for native rights.


  7. Well Mr. Dockstader, as someone who has been called both an idiot AND a racist, if all life is sacred as you say, why do you feel the Haudenosaunee have the right to take it away? It always strikes me as strange that when someone speaks of the deer as their “brothers”, it’s usually in defense of killing those “brothers”. Why would anyone who respects all life do that?

    And how far back are you talking about living “in perfectly sustainable communities with a delicate balance between nature and mankind”? Was that when the smaller, more agile Cro-Magnon exterminated the Neanderthals? Or perhaps when Ice Age hunters wiped out the mastodon, wooly rhino and sabre tooth cat? What about the dodo, the Tasmanian tiger and the passenger pigeon?

    Yes, we’ve done a bang up job of living sustainably with other species. Whether it’s driving herds of bison over cliffs or shooting them from trains, humans, regardless of race, are screw ups when it comes to “managing” nature.

    Nature balances itself. Always has, always will. We’re just a little too arrogant to let it do its job. And a little too bloodthirsty as well.

    P.S. The MNR put the Short Hills deer population back in March of this year to be approximately 240, a 37.2% decrease from 2011 and a previous decrease of 14% from 2009. Now you say it’s 400 to 600. That’s quite an explosion over the last 8 months. Almost unnatural. And, I would add, completely untrue.


  8. I saw a picture by Dan Wilson, and an article by Doug Draper of a child kneeling in a traumatic and grief stricken pose behind her parent while they petted and comforted an arrow-hit deer until the ‘authorities’ arrived to put it mercifully to it’s death.

    I read that the hunter was not allowed to take the kill because it had run on to their private property which was built on the peripheral of the reserved land . I wonder what they did with the deer after it died? I wonder if any such vigil is held for the property owner’s bacon, steak, or the child’s chicken nuggets? I wonder if the angry mob sticking up for deer had to be culled of meat eaters, how many would be left standing in the room? Post a picture of what they really do to sheep, female cattle, baby pigs, chickens, and your holiday turkey. Have you ever seen a transport truck driving down a freezing wet highway packed so tight with live chickens that their feathers are sticking out and flying through the air?

    For these three squares a day, you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, use your vacation time, stand in the cold rain, chase it for hours, control your emotions, then give up the rest of your day to process antler to tail-tip. Don’t have to get even one drop of blood on your hands; all you have to do is wave a dollar bill. I wish the ones who can say they don’t eat flesh would crusade as hard against the money-makers who feed and breed other beings in heartless and sanctioned life-taking.


    • Lynne: you should have kept reading because there was a picture below showing the MNR dragging off the dead deer. I can assure you that the home owner did not keep it. You can confirm that with John Salo of the MNR.
      All this rhetoric about eating meat or treaties or marineland (for that matter) doesnt make the practice of hunting in Short Hills Park any less dangerous for residents or for visitors.


    • you made some very excellent points thank you 🙂


  9. Robert (Ron) Walker

    I was happy to see the Ojibway support for your hunt. There is a tendency to construct treaties as some kind of paper document and not a living document which is an arrangement between peoples. This arrangement was necessitated when Europeans “strayed far from their roots” and the “two row wampum” treaty was long before the “Albany treaty”. I am grateful that we were allies at the time of the American revolution and accompanied the the Mohawks to Canada when their river settlements in the New York colony were seized by the revolutionaries like Washington. As allies your people defended Canada in the war of 1812 which was recently celebrated by local governments who seem to forget this fact when it come to this hunt which is important to sustain your culture and way of life. Some of us support your “inherent rights” as first nations and certainly recognize and honour “our” treaties without any nit picking. Everyone has the right to be and I know the traditional path does not involve any wanton destruction of wildlife nor sanction any attempt to “tame” or enslave them for exploitation as is done by Marine Land and Game Farm.


  10. @ Lynne Sherry: Hi Lynne! May I suggest that you go back and read the story, and all the other stories related to this, as your facts seem to be in error. And although she may or may not be flattered, the “child” you speak of is a twenty-something year old grad student at Brock.

    The MNR shot the wounded deer in the head (it was a stomach wound by supposedly skilled hunters who only take “kill” shots) and then the MNR delivered the doe to the hunters back inside the park. And no, we don’t eat other animals – what hypocrites we would be if we did! – while many of us are also volunteering, educating and speaking out for a more compassionate and peaceful world. We actually LIKE animals.

    Many of the people at Short Hills also foster animals, protest at slaughterhouses, promote veganism and do hundreds of other things big and small to make this a better world. It’s good to hear that you also oppose the horrendous conditions that our society imposes on other animals – enslavement, exploitation and slaughter – so I’ll assume you don’t eat them either. May I also assume you’re out there crusading for animal liberation too? 🙂


  11. Patricia Fitzpatrick Naylor

    Hey Dan, what a great idea you have. Recruiting folks like Lynne to crusade for animal liberation because of their obvious opposition of the “horrendous conditions our society imposes on other animals – enslavement, exploitation and slaughter”…Yahoo, we will get to have another protester standing with us. We welcome all enlightened and evolved people who care.


  12. Yes…. @ Dan… indeed that is exactly what I am doing now….crusading, just to answer your question. I stand my ground where I have asked, ‘I wonder if the angry mob sticking up for deer had to be culled of meat eaters, how many would be left standing in the room.’ I have nothing to lose. If after the question was answered truthfully, and I were left to stand and gaze at a room (or a parking lot at the entrance of Short Hills park) chock-full of peace loving and mindful people who truly are not meat eating, UGG-wearing consumers, it would only serve to fill my chest with hope.
    I have been spending my entire profession working with people; people who eat meat, people who don’t eat meat, and all too often, people who don’t have enough to eat at all. I estimate that I have listened to the intimate details of the lives of thousands and thousands of strangers, worked with them a while, and then they left. I will never know whose mind I might have stretched, or whose path I might have offered healing. I can’t get attached to those outcomes, because, alas, my view is only my view, and it is expressed merely as a call out to any souls to whom it might speak. So yeah, I am not seeking to ‘win’ an argument. I guess if that is my crusade, it is the free-thinking, there is more than I could ever comprehend –type of crusade…so I just keep asking questions.
    That was where I intended to end my note (crusade) , but a funny thing just happened: Two hunters (very important people in my life) just backed the truck into the driveway. It’s about 8:30 am. After me and my dog watched them haul out a 3-point buck and drag it out back, I returned to finish this note. It is absolutely gorgeous and has the same colourings as my dog (a Belgian Malinois, whom is also a meat eater). They will be hanging it for a while and it’s blood will stain the white snow. My chest fills with something other than hope; I think it is grief. They have gone to get sausage casings, spices, and some brandy. They will come back and work until dark to harvest every morsel of the buck’s flesh, process, package, and freeze it. They will eat that this winter instead of buying pork chops or Grade A corn-fed beef steak from the grocery store. They will use the ribs and toes and the hide for things like drums, and regalia, and blankets; just to name a bit. They had already gutted it and left that for the coyotes, whom if not killed by a property owner, might surely have got that buck anyway. Acceptance washes over me and I go make them eggs and deer sausage, and I will share my vegan home-sprouted stir fry if they want. I will always stay alert and question what happens all around me; like this story as it turned out. It is a true story….honest to God.


  13. I heard the protesters were pretty unruly and one even got arrested for pushing a cop, and all the while the Native hunt supporters just sang drum songs. I hope I don’t read in the local rag headlines on Monday something like, ‘ Native Protest Gets Violent.’


    • Sheila Krekorian

      Lynne: you heard wrong. This is the problem with reporting second or third-hand accounts. Demonstrations were peaceful and no one was arrested-not even close. The only violence that occurred was inside the park. There is plenty of “blood staining the snow” there too. Go check it out.
      Im sure that absolutely gorgeous buck hanging dead at your house looked more magnificent when it was alive. But we will never know, will we?


  14. I believe what I heard, because I heard it from a good source (first hand account and not the media.) As for the “absolutely gorgeous buck hanging in (my backyard)” …. yes… I am more than ‘absolutely’ sure that he was beyond gorgeous alive than dead…


  15. no one was arrested or charged, you heard wrong. and to the lady that spoke about no blood on hands – we’ll start with hers. mine are clean, have been for quite some time. BUT even a person who breaks arms for a living, can still say it is wrong to break legs….they may not be as convincing in their points, but they can still say it is wrong. Personally I think all killing is wrong.


  16. Best Shorthills Protests Are Short On Patience
    With The Hunters | Niagara At Large
    Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and
    energy to put this article together. I once again find myself
    spending way too much time both reading and posting comments.

    But so what, it was still worthwhile!


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