Innu leaders says 300 caribou can be hunted

Derek Montague
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The Labrador Innu leaders have decided to disobey the provincial ban on hunting the George River caribou herd. Both Innu Nation Grand Chief Prote Poker and Mushuau Innu band council Chief Simeon Tshakapesh say they will allow 300 male caribou to be hunted between the two communities.

"We will make tags for ourselves," says Poker. "We're aware that we may be prosecuted, (but) what we're doing is conservation and we're also looking at our culture as well."

The provincial government estimates the George River caribou herd, once 800,000 animals strong, is now down to around 20,000, prompting the provincial government to implement a five-year ban on hunting the herd. Poker says he, and many others in the Innu communities, think the number of animals is higher.

"We also (talked) about doing a count ourselves, we want to go to the root, where they migrate," says Poker. "We want to go there this spring, take photographs of the caribou passing through."

"We're going to establish our own monitoring system," says Tshakapesh.

Neither Poker nor Tshakapesh seem to be phased by the idea of legal repercussions for disobeying the five-year ban.

The decision to continue hunting comes after several days of consultation talks with Innu elders and community members in Sheshatshiu and Natuashish. A primary focus of the meetings was to get the opinions of the Innu elders.

"The community of elders doesn't want any prohibition from caribou (hunting)," says Poker. "The Sheshatshiu elders talk about the ban on the Mealy Mountain herd ... so they don't want to agree to a ban to the George River herd as well, because it's the only caribou that's available now."

Tshakapesh says that there are cultural reasons for not supporting the ban. He says there are Innu in both communities, himself included, who rely on caribou for their diet. He also says there's an important, ceremonial caribou hunt that takes place every year.

"It's a spiritual thing that the Innu have had for thousands and thousands of years," says Tshakapesh.

The 300 tags will, probably, not be enough to give every Innu hunter a caribou. Both Poker and Tshakapesh agree that giving the tags to elders, first, should be a priority.

Tshakapesh has faith that the hunters in the Innu communities will not overhunt the caribou, or go beyond the limits that have been set.

Inevitably, there will be backlash for the decision to continue hunting, especially since representatives from the other Labrador aboriginal groups have supported a hunting ban.

No representatives from the provincial government were invited to the consultations in the Innu communities. But both chiefs indicated they are willing to sit at the table with the government to talk about the issue of caribou hunting, if the government is willing.

"That's what we want," says Poker. "We don't want to take this to the courts; we want to have an agreement with the province on this."

No representatives from the provincial government could be reached as of press time for comment.


Organizations: The Labradorian

Geographic location: Sheshatshiu

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Recent comments

  • Lizor
    May 01, 2013 - 18:22

    I believe in right of place. People have a right to harvest what resources are in their place. A poster pointed out that the industrial developments that have been going on and those planned are probably having a negative impact on the herd. Will concern for caribou slow or halt the demands on industry? Of course not. People who are not of this place should mind their own business.

  • Larry Smith
    February 07, 2013 - 17:12

    Seems as though public opinions/comments have changed a lot about this matter opposed to several years ago when several of my post about the matter was deleted and I was kicked out. The editor graciously allowed me to return. Thank you I feel very sorry about the poor wildlife and game enforcement officers that all this mess will be kicked down to. No matter what they do it will be wrong. Conservation must prevail or the animals involved will certainly go extinct.

  • Bigland
    February 07, 2013 - 11:42

    The Innu were the only ones to hunt in a closed zone where the endangered Red Wine herd roamed, the only ones .. They never done nothing to help protect this herd & they ain’t going to make any real effort to protect the George river herd. The Innu made do without caribou in the past when the herd was down & they can make do without them now. If it were not for chartered planes going around spotting the caribou, GPS & ski – doo they probably be forced to do without them again. The Innu are losing a lot of respect, nobody are blaming them for the decline in the herd but they may get the blame for any continued decline, they should take this into consideration ….

  • Paul
    February 07, 2013 - 09:43

    they want to hunt 1.5 % of the alleged 20,000 remaining caribou. Is that going to destroy the herd? I don't know. Is industrial development a factor in the herd demise? in all likelyhood it is, according to experts. will there be any reduction in mineral exploration or other activity in the area , along with a hunting ban? I don't think so. I'm not sure if I agree with even a limited hunt but I can understand where they are coming from...pretty much the same place that many Newfoundlanders were, 20 years ago, with the ban on the food fishery, by a government they mistrust... To ignore that parrellels between the two, and simply dump all over the Innu, is IMO, bigotry...its okay for us to complain and make demands on governemnt when OUR traditional resources are kept from us, but heaven forbid the Innu do something like that.

  • Bigland
    February 07, 2013 - 08:48

    The Innu were the only ones to hunt in a closed zone where the endangered Red Wine herd roamed, the only ones .. They never done nothing to help protect this herd & they ain’t going to make any real effort to protect the George river herd. The Innu made do without caribou in the past when the herd was down & they can make do without them now. If it were not for chartered planes going around spotting the caribou, GPS & ski – doo they probably be forced to do without them again. The Innu are losing a lot of respect, nobody are blaming them for the decline in the herd but they may get the blame for any continued decline, they should take this into consideration ….

  • Winston Adams
    February 07, 2013 - 08:35

    I consider all these comments here as subtle, and not so subtle racism. I suppose it is in our genes, as desendents of our ancestors who aided the destruction of the Beothic. Although genes need not dominate our character, we are told. How many of you are aware that the Beothic built fences 30 miles long to direct the migration of the caribou, to aid their hunting. But in the end, Peyton and others cared nothing for the Beothic. Every resourse needed by the Beothic was taken or restricted until the Beothic starved to death. And even since, other resources, like the hydro power that heats our houses, comes from rain that falls on what was Beothic land. Are you, who post here, ignorant of our history? Or perhaps you are proud of that history? Should our history not teach us to better respect the remaining aboriginal people? Or is it the ignorance of our history that is the problem? I have no doubt that the Innu have more concern for the decline of the caribou then we do. Should we not ask what can we do to help minimize the Innu need, and therefore the number of caribou they need to hunt?

    • Wejitu
      February 10, 2013 - 08:45

      I like your comments and agree with them. I know, I do Know, that then minimal harvest of caribou by Innut is not the reason for the decline in the caribou herd numbers. Innut will not harvest the caribou to extinction. Innut will do everything in their power to protect the caribou herd. They do this because the caribou helped them survive for 10,000 years in Labrador and before that in their Ancestral home in Siberia and during their migration from there to here. As they did at the time the Newfoundland Government bureaucrat wrote the memo saying "Leave them alone, they will all die off soon enough". I am sure Innut thank you for your understanding and support and appreciates it very much.

    • Winston
      February 10, 2013 - 19:45

      Winston seems to think that because people care and may disagree with a minority that they are racists. We care about the herds and maybe - just maybe we have some say since we pay the bills on those reservations and get no accounting of our money. If you wish to give back to those who were first then start with the Asian Influence before the Beothics........they came after. Maybe we all now own this land.

    • Geoff
      March 06, 2013 - 14:42

      Winston, before you all someone racist, you should look in the mirror, saying one group is better than another and their opinion matters more is racism. If you do not like how native communities are portrayed perhaps you shouldn't denigrate other communities. There are lazy, selfish, mean people in all communities and just because you come from one race does not make your opinion right. I respect people not races, and if more people approached problems using that method maybe something might actually get acomplished.

  • Brad
    February 07, 2013 - 01:08

    So maybe it's 25,000 or even 50,000. We're talking about a herd that was once the largest single migration of caribou in the world at over 800,000 less than 30 years ago. That's a 2.5% decline (or 20,000 animals) per year and that is huge! This is a population that is in major crisis and you dare to call printing your own tags conservation? I understand there is a very dear traditional aspect to the caribou hunt in the Innu culture but at some point you have to look at the greater good. How do you pass these traditions to your children and grandchildren when the caribou are gone? An average decline of 20,000 animals and there are roughly 20,000 animals on the hoof out there now. It doesn't take a math prodigy to see that the George River Herd is in a very precarious position and the stewards of that resource should be treating the situation with a little more gravity.

  • gf
    February 06, 2013 - 22:50

    If they hunt, arrest them.

  • Bob
    February 06, 2013 - 22:44

    What a time to implimate a cease of payment to the indians. You want to hunt the caribou because its on YOUR land , then hunt. But all government monetary handouts STOPS.... It's OUR money !!!!!!!

  • Whaddaya At
    February 06, 2013 - 22:02

    If push comes to shove between the Innu and the Prov. Gov't., the Gov't. will turtle, just as it has done in the past. The Wildlife Conservation Officers will be caught in the middle, as usual, and won't know, from day to day, whether they're coming or going. As a former Public Servant in Labrador during the 80's and 90's, I can assure you that, as far as the Innu are concerned, Gov't. Legislation and Policies do not apply to them and they will not be dictated to by politicians at Confederation Building.

    February 06, 2013 - 21:23

    Well done Grand Chief Poker!! Whats next, harvest half of the remaining cod fish, in the bays around the coastline of NFLD ?? Seriously, will anything be good enough to satisfy your "rights" to take what you want ??

  • rex
    February 06, 2013 - 20:30

    Its still breaking the law, you are still in Canada, it makes me sick how they can do what they want.

  • Conrad
    February 06, 2013 - 18:18

    We must prosecute anyone who hunts these animals. Laws are for all of us to follow.

  • roy
    February 06, 2013 - 17:45

    There is a ban on hunting this herd, so who is going to police the harvesting of the 300. If 300 is harvested with tags made up by the band and should the tages not be made so that they cannot be reused how many more will be harvested. What about the number that will be wounded and not recovered. They have no respect for anything and are S.........

  • david
    February 06, 2013 - 17:08 in tune with nature must those natives be !? To commune with their gods of the hunt, and pray to their forefathers for many moons, to arrive at such a definitive, precise figure...if only the white man could ever be so tied into gaia's wondrous workings as this, surely our future would be blessed with contentment and harmony.

  • J
    February 06, 2013 - 17:00

    I would hope the authorities will be prosecuting any Innu who breaks the law in the exact same way my fellow White, Newfoundlanders were hounded and prosecuted follow the cod moratorium in 1992. Surely a double standard does not exist in the eyes of the law??

  • darrell
    February 06, 2013 - 16:27

    Bunch of bluffs. They'll kill every last one of them if they get the chance. 300 is only a ploy.

  • Here We Go Again
    February 06, 2013 - 16:09

    The Indians will take as many as they want with their high powered rifles, big snowmobiles, truck transport trucks, gps's, cell phones, like their forefathers did (right) while the NL Government does absolutly nothing as before. Why didn't they just say a month ago the ban is for the "whiteman" only and he will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if he hunts Caribou. I will now be called a racist like Randy Simms was because I would not like the herd to become extinct.

  • Dee
    February 06, 2013 - 15:47

    Anyone caught breaking the law should be Prosecuted the same as anyone who are caught fishing,hunting Moose they should have their cars,ATV,s ,ski-doo,s what ever they are using taken from them just like everyone else,their culture who do they think they are.Grow up people.

  • Steve
    February 06, 2013 - 15:43

    Looks like randy was right. I hope that they get caught and they lose their machines and guns. Conservation my ass. Blatent defiance is more like it

  • Anon
    February 06, 2013 - 15:15

    Yup, go ahead and slaughter every last one. Then you can come bawlin to the government for a handout. And you'll get it too. Should I just mail you a check now or do you want to wait until the herd is extinct instead? A shameful demonstration of ignorance.

    • Davey Crocket
      February 07, 2013 - 09:19

      For a culture that has hunted caribou for thousands of years I commend them on their effort to reduce the hunt until the numbers rebound. If the Islanders want to comment, then don't throw your jiggers in the water for five years.