Chief Googoo says moose hunting practices need review
With moose hunting season underway in Victoria County, Chief Rod Googoo worked last week to find a better way.
The Mi’kmaq chief of Waycobah gathered around 40 guides, naturalists and native moose harvesters at a meeting October 3 to make aboriginal hunting “more safe and responsible,” he said in a phone interview Friday.
“We call ourselves the stewards of the land,” Googoo said. “If we’re going to talk that talk, we better walk that walk.”
An indigenous-only moose cull in The Cape Breton Highlands National Parks has led to tension during the past three years, fueled by non-native people who felt left out of the harvest, and by people like Rosemary Courage whose family has camped in the park each summer for most of her life. The prolific writer of letters to editors is on record as preferring that the cull not happen, but if it must, that helicopters be banned.
Last year, cull administrators said helicopters are used to retrieve moose carcasses from rugged terrain, not for shooting. And Parks Canada said that thinning the moose population will allow trees to return to barren mountainsides.
Meanwhile, Googoo says there is a conflict between provincial regulations and aboriginal customs.
“Provincial hunting laws don’t really apply to us because of treaties,” Googoo said. “People have to understand that the treaties didn’t come from the Supreme Court of Canada or the Constitution. Our hunting rights come from the treaties that we signed back in the 1700s. And they are still valid. They were reaffirmed by the court.”
“It’s not a free-for-all for us. That’s not the way we see it.”
“We have our own (hunting) guidelines that were put in place many years ago. The time has come to review and revise them. Things change over the years.”
“If our people are going to be hunting under aboriginal rights, then we have to look back to our customs and see if we are doing things the proper way, and if there is a better way of doing things. We have to look at ourselves and be responsible.”
“If we’re going to be self-governing one day, this is a good exercise that we need to work on.”
For example, Googoo said, “There is a season for everything.”
“We don’t hunt furbearing animals in the spring or summer. That’s a time for us to do other things, because the animals are coming off a long hard winter. They have calves. So, you’ve got to give them a chance to rest, and you wait until the fall.”
Googoo said he called the meeting because, “When it comes to our rights to hunt and fish, I need help on that. I’m not afraid to get input from all the people that are involved. It’s better when the whole community agrees, ‘this is the way we should be doing things,’ instead of imposing new laws or sanctions.”
He plans to host more meetings over the winter, including one on the mainland in November.
Meanwhile, he was pleased that a moose-hunting camp for Mi’kmaq youth was held October 7 on Hunters Mountain.
“The hunters will take the kids out two or three per vehicle, and if they do get an animal, the kids are taught how to clean it and take care of it so we can get it to a butcher.”
“It’s our way of educating our kids on how things should be done.”
“How to act responsibly … all that stuff that’s not taught in school.”