W̱SÁNEĆ Hunters Reclaim Traditional Land Management Activities on Sidney Island
The W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council is hosting several hunting trips to Sidney Island as part of an ongoing effort to restore the Island’s native species.
Shown above: Knowledge Holders and Youth during a Hunting Trip on Sidney Island this fall.
W̱SÁNEĆ Land Management Practices Maintained Ecological Balance
Prior to colonialism, W̱SÁNEĆ people practiced numerous land management practices as part of the sacred responsibility to care for plant and animal relatives. Practices such as Traditional Hunting & Fishing, and Prescriptive Burns all helped to ensure the land, plants, animals and subsequently W̱SÁNEĆ people thrived.
Since the arrival of settlers however, land has been privatized and land management taken over by colonial bodies which has resulted in devastation to indigeous species. On Sidney Island for example, Fallow Deer (an invasive species) has left the island barren of the native plants which once flourished. Fallow Deer’s indiscriminate clearcutting of vegetation has destroyed plant medicines and food bulbs which are vital to the health of the unique ecosystem of Sidney Island.
Parks Canada recognized W̱SÁNEĆ knowledge keepers possessed the wisdom and skills needed to address this problem, and asked the W̱SÁNEĆ community to participate the Fur to Forest Initiative which seeks to repair the damage done by the fallow deer by working with private landowners, and federal and provincial governments to achieve shared conservation objectives.This is a unique opportunity for W̱SÁNEĆ community to work alongside colonial bodies to reintroduce traditional knowledge of land stewardship practices.
W̱SÁNEĆ Knowledge Essential to Restore Native Plant and Animal Species
The Fur to Forest Initiative is a multi-pronged approach to restoring Sidney Island which uses ecological restoration efforts – such as replanting natural food bulbs and medicinal plants inside deer-safe enclosures – and hunting to manage the impact of the European fallow deer.
The creation of an active W̱SÁNEĆ hunting community to help control the population of European fallow deer is a critical part of the Initiative.
Parks Canada is helping support a strong W̱SÁNEĆ hunting community by providing exclusive park access to local First Nations people for a short period each year. This year, exclusive access takes place from November 1st, 2022 to February 28th, 2023 (exclusive access period).
This exclusive access period is a welcome shift from the historic over-regulation of W̱SÁNEĆ hunting practices, and W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Council (WLC) is appreciative of this sign of respect for Knowledge Keeper’s wisdom and traditions by a colonial institution.
W̱SÁNEĆ Elder, Senior Hunter, and Knowledge Keeper Carl Olsen Teaches Youth to Hunt Respectfully
W̱SÁNEĆ senior hunters are using this period of exclusive access to teach W̱SÁNEĆ youth to hunt in a way that aligns with W̱SÁNEĆ tradition and culture. One such senior hunter is Carl Olsen, who learned to hunt from his dad and oldest brother and learned to smoke and prepare deer from his mom and dad.
Olsen started teaching W̱SÁNEĆ youth to hunt the moment the exclusive access period began. From November 1st to November 3rd this fall, Olsen stayed on Sidney Island with a group of junior hunters. During these hunting trips, Olsen teaches youth the logistical, safety and cultural aspects of hunting. This way, youth hunt safely and in a way that is respectful to the deer, all while learning how to gut, hang and skin the deer. While camping together, the group also discussed their inherent treaty rights. Olsen and his group of junior hunters returned with five deer which, in accordance with W̱SÁNEĆ values, were shared with the community.
Olsen and other senior hunters intend to continue working with youth throughout the exclusive access period.
The WLC is proud to be a part of this initiative which is critical for the restoration of Sidney Island and provides an opportunity to share and practice W̱SÁNEĆ hunting tradition.
WLC is also searching for instructors to teach another hunting program focused on bow hunting. Details will be announced as soon as they are available.
W̱SÁNEĆ youth who are interested in learning traditional hunting practices are invited to contact Eric via text at 250-880 2457 to discuss upcoming opportunities.