Wildlife Technician Addison Fosbery on Indigenous Harvesting
Addressing The Stigma around Indigenous Communities Hunting
The topic of Indigenous communities and hunting is complex and there's a lot of confusion around what is happening versus what the media likes to present. To every side of the story, there's always the good and the bad.
When Addison and I connected, he mentioned his desire to shed more light around aboriginal harvesting and stewardship. Being relatively new to industry, I honestly only knew what the big institutions offered; therefore my uneducated-self made assumptions such as how any Indigenous community member could go out and hunt and fish to their heart desires, but things are a lot more intricate than that. I was surprise to learn an Indigenous person only has the right to hunt and fish in their treaty area traditional territory, unless there's a "shipman's" letter of approval from the other bands.
I encouraged Addison to speak plainly towards the issues at hand and to address the stigmas from his perspective. But more importantly to share a bit about his culture, initiatives his clan has taken to ensure ethical hunting and his work as a wildlife technician.
Syilx, Okanagan First Nations
I am Syilx, Okanagan First Nations, and belong to Westbank First Nation (WFN). The WFN is a self-governing First Nation community with more than 9000 residents and 400 businesses. I'm also, the Co-chair of the Westbank First Nation Youth Council.
The outdoors has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and before that my parents took me camping as a baby. Both my grandfathers have 5 or more siblings, so my extended family is huge. I honestly meet new cousins every year.
When hunting, I try my best every year to harvest for the elders in my family, such as my grandparents. Usually, I just ask if they need any meat for their freezers. It's pretty informal. My grandfather really likes deer tongue and back-straps but, generally, everybody really likes back-straps.
Traditional Syilx hunters follow a harvest calendar
Traditionally, when the peddles of the arrowleaf balsamroot fall off, it's a primary seasonal indicator. Hunters would harvest their first deer of the year. My department, Natural Resources, has been interviewing elders for the last year and compiling all the data to create a full seasonal calendar. I can't share with you too much, but when the calendar is complete for public use, I look forward to making it public. Hopefully, it will help folks better understand things like why they would see someone shooting a deer in June.
Hunter Education for First Nations
There are a number one way we, Syilx people and most First Nations people educate our youth on hunting and stewardship of the land. It’s not uncommon to host youth hunting camps as part of the education process. We'll have a community camp every year, and we try to pair youth up with elders, or they'll be with their families which will instill ethics. Honestly, I'd say enforcement really comes down on an internal community level. The communities aren't that big though therefore it is not hard to do so. You'll always have that small percent that is in the wrong and is the loudest but as in any large group it does not (at all) represent the whole.
Since I'm a wildlife technician, I'm always in the woods, if I ever see anything suspicious, it's usually resolved with a quick conversation. Most of the time, I'm probably related to them, so there's not much conflict when I walk over to investigate. Many folks have the mentality, "it's Crown Land; therefore the government will take care of it" and that's far from the truth, we have to change our attitudes, we are all responsible. Our actions matter.
Racism Against The Tribes
I only know my own issues, understand there are many different layers in the different tribes. For example, corruption in the band leadership is a very real thing. It's most apparent when you see a considerable poverty gap between band council and it's people. It's in our bloodline to instinctively have great respect and admiration for wildlife, but it's hard to educate those that shoot out of poverty and starvation. Bands in these conditions don't know or understand how things work due to the lack of education and resources in their area. You have to understand some tribes up north don't even have access to fresh drinking water. There's this misconception that we get paid every month. I want to clarify that monthly cheque is not the case.
Honestly, some of it is just blatant racism or simply miscommunication. I hope to start shedding more light on topics through my work and sharing my stories of the Syilx culture! I have tons more to tell.