Leah Laplante, Minister of Natural Resources in the Métis government, understands the importance of protecting the Métis’ ancestral harvesting rights, including hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering. She has herself lived off the land for her whole life.
“I am Métis and I lived my entire life in a small community located in the woods near Lake Metigoshe. For my family, the fruits of the harvest were the only means of survival.”
While these harvesting rights, traditions and laws,, which have been passed down in Métis families from generation to generation, date back to before the Province of Manitoba’s origins in the 19th century, there were times when they weren’t officially recognized by the Crown.
“I still remember when I was li le and my father went out to hunt deer at nightfall so as not to be seen; he worked to feed our family just as our Elders had always done. We were always afraid that something might happen to him.
“Thanks to the Manitoba Metis Federation that took a stand on our behalf in the late 1990s, our rights have been recognized since 2004 in the Métis Laws of the Harvest guide and we no longer have to hide to go out hunting at night, in the dark as though we were criminals!” The MMF is continuing to work to ensure that Métis harvesting rights are recognized everywhere and acknowledged by all. In the meantime, Leah Laplante remains confident of her success while she is out hunting just as her ancestors have done for generations.