If you would like to access the meat that was harvested, please contact your local band office.
On Friday, December 1st, the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC) implemented a last-resort initiative to finally eliminate fallow deer from SḰŦÁMEN (Sidney Island), a move that will allow the original ecosystem to flourish for the first time since Europeans introduced the invasive species in the 1900s.
This eradication of the fallow deer on SḰŦÁMEN is a last-resort response to the ongoing ecological devastation they’ve caused. According to Eric Pelkey, the Community Engagement Coordinator for the WLC, the deer have clear-cut the vegetation on the island, eliminating the opportunity for the W̱SÁNEĆ community to harvest traditional foods and medicines. In Pelkey’s words:
All of the underbrush out in Sydney Island has been cleared because of a fallow deer. Nothing has a chance to grow. The only thing that’s there now is the mature trees and things like that. And all the young plants, and even the young trees don’t have a chance to grow. All of our plants and medicines that we used to harvest there are all gone and all of the undergrowth is gone.
The initiative, which began on Friday, will run the course of 10 days.
Talks about the Ecological Restoration of Sidney Island began in 2018, and since 2020 WLC has attempted to remedy the damage caused by the deer via several less extensive measures. For example, the SḰŦÁMEN QENÁȽ,ENEȻ SĆȺ offers a hunting program through which W̱SÁNEĆ senior hunters teach W̱SÁNEĆ youth to hunt in a traditional manner while reducing the population of fallow deer. The WLC also considered relocation of the deer. However, despite years of persistent investigation into how to best resolve the issue, no other option proved to be a feasible solution in the face of the massive damage caused. The property owners on Sidney Island voted on and approved this last-resort solution in Summer of 2023.
The current culling process will include ceremony and culture, and the resulting meat from the fallow deer will be distributed to W̱SÁNEĆ community members. A group of 10 people will then collect the fallen deer in order to harvest the meat, where it will be put into freezer trucks for shipment, divided into portions, then delivered and distributed to the band offices of Tsartlip, Tseycum, Tsawout, Pauquachin, and the Malahat Nations. An announcement will be posted to the WLC website after the band offices have received the shipments of meat to alert community members that they can collect their share.
While the elimination of the fallow deer is grievous in many ways, it is a necessary step towards preserving W̱SÁNEĆ culture. In the words of W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council Director of Operations Gord Elliott, “I want to emphasize that although it is sad, it is necessary to remove the fallow deer to restore the SḰŦÁMEN ecosystem. By returning the island to its natural state before the introduction of fallow deer by colonizers, we can help natural foods and medicines thrive once more. This will ensure that the natural Black Tail deer population and our traditional practices can continue for generations to come.”