As part of the WLC’s mandate to promote respect for W̱SÁNEĆ rights and culture, the WLC has been working to ensure community members have the skills, training and ability to access W̱SÁNEĆ hunting territory in the Gulf Islands to exercise their right to hunt and fish as formerly.
Shown above: W̱SÁNEĆ community members who completed the WLC facilitated PAL training on Oct 30/31st weekend.
Over time, Indigenous hunting has become over-regulated and it is a common experience for W̱SÁNEĆ hunters to be hassled by Conservation Officers. These efforts have been an attempt to sever the critical relationship that exists between W̱SÁNEĆ people and their plant and animal relatives. These policies fractured the sacred W̱SÁNEĆ duty to take care of the land and, as a consequence, both the health of the environment and people have been compromised.
Prior to the arrival of settlers, Coast Salish people were active in caretaking the land and plant and animal relatives through methods such as prescriptive burning, hunting, clam-digging, reef-net fishing, medicine gathering, and more. This active engagement with the land resulted in fewer wildfires, a better-managed population of animals, and improved native species’ health.
Specifically, in W̱SÁNEĆ Territory, the overpopulation of fallow deer–a species brought by settlers for sport hunting–has led to the destruction of important native plant and animal species and allowed for further encroachment of invasive species.
Through the Fur to Forest initiative, the WLC is working to reconnect W̱SÁNEĆ people with the land, ancient hunting practices, and sacred responsibilities in several ways:
- The WLC is equipping people with safety and gun-usage training, including PAL and CORE training. Prior to COVID, these training sessions happened regularly, and they are just now getting back underway. Two sessions took place in mid- and late- October, with the PAL course being particularly well attended.
- Once the classroom and safety portion of the training is complete, W̱SÁNEĆ elders have been leading facilitated hunting trips to help reclaim W̱SÁNEĆ Cultural practices that have been interrupted due to colonialism.
- The WLC’s working relationship with Parks Canada and other colonial bodies ensure W̱SÁNEĆ interests and culture are represented and advocated for, including the restoration of SENĆOTEN names, as well as interpretive signage in SENĆOTEN that share stories, names of native plants, and artwork from community members.
Another way the partnership with Parks Canada has translated into real-world benefits for W̱SÁNEĆ people is with the closure of the northern portion of Sidney Island for the purposes of facilitating Indigenous hunting.
From November 1st, 2021 until Feb 28th, 2022, all land within the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve on Sidney Island will be closed to the public. In addition, Parks Canada will install two hunting blinds located at the NE and SW corners of “Radar Field” (please see map) as a tool for hunters who wish to use them. Parks Canada will also provide a canvas wall tent, fire ring, and shelter with a picnic table, all located within the campground, to encourage multi-day hunts.
Shown above, the map of Sidney Island closures and hunting facilities, exclusively for Coast Salish hunters.
In addition, Parks Canada has coordinated a hunting schedule in order to increase safety on the Island and to improve the experience for hunting parties.
As a safety precaution of Parks Canada staff who will continue to work on Sidney Island throughout the closure period, an orange flag will be raised at one of the Sidney Island docks when on-site and a sandwich board will be set up at the Hook Spit Main Dock and Transport Dock (weather conditions dependent).
Hunters are also encouraged to raise an orange flag at one of the docks when on site. If hunters observe a raised flag and/or a sandwich board at Sidney Island, they are encouraged to call Ben Tooby or Parks Dispatch (1-877-852-3100).
Hunters may also contact Ben Tooby, Hunt Coordinator and Safety Officer for questions, concerns or to inquire about scheduling a hunting trip firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-507-6653.
To sign up for November’s WLC trip, please add your information here