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…
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.)