Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug has rejected a proposed Ministry of Natural Resources aerial moose inventory survey set to begin on Jan. 8 over its traditional lands.
“From our perspective as council, we do not approve of that,” said KI Chief Donny Morris. “We don’t see a decline in our moose population and we live off of them. Like any initiations by the MNR, the intent is to limit use or gathering of our traditional wild game. We see that coming and we’re just telling them that, no, we do not want it — stay away.”
Morris described the community’s concerns over the proposed moose survey in a Dec. 20 letter to MNR Minister David Orazietti, which is posted on the kitchenuhmaykoosib.com website. “The letter was sent to the minister,” Morris said. “I am hoping he is delegating it down to his bureaucrats.”
Morris received a Dec. 18 letter from Bob David, MNR’s district manager in Sioux Lookout, regarding the proposed moose survey.
“The proposed aerial survey is set to begin without our permission and free, prior and informed consent,” Morris said in his letter. “We ask that there be no moose survey over our territory until we give our consent.”
Morris said his community members are the original and permanent inhabitants of the watersheds flowing into Big Trout Lake.
“This territory is our traditional land and it is our home,” Morris said in the letter. “We depend on this land for our subsistence and we continue to hunt, fish and trap as we have for thousands of years. Hunting, fishing and trapping of wildlife species is at the heart of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug. Our people depend on hunting, fishing and trapping for their subsistence.”
Morris said the right to harvest is fundamental to Aboriginal life and is one of the most important inherent Aboriginal rights.
“In our view, any legislation, regulation or management activity that purports to ‘protect,’ regulate or manage the moose in the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug homeland without first obtaining the consent (of the) Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug is in contradiction with our treaty rights and, in our opinion, unconstitutional,” Morris said in the letter. “This is not the first time your ministry has launched an initiative to manage and ‘protect’ wildlife in our homeland. Our Elders tell us that in the past they were harassed by Ontario’s game wardens who impounded our boats, nets, fish, guns, traps and pelts and jailed our people, all in the name of ‘protecting’ and managing wildlife.”
Morris said the MNR’s past actions had profound effects on the community’s families, their culture and their identity as Aboriginal people.
“During those days, by simple force, your fish and game laws prevailed over our treaty right to hunt and fish and the sacred responsibilities the Creator gave our people to look after the land and animals,” Morris said in the letter. “Frankly, proper consultation with Ontario requires a process of reconciliation to overcome the legacy of the MNR harassment and incarceration of our people for simply exercising their treaty rights.”
Morris called for MNR officials to visit KI to discuss a reconciliation process for the historic harms suffered by community members.
“They made a difficult livelihood for our membership,” Morris said. “And they have to answer to it.”
Morris said his community initiated the process with the hope that other communities would also join in with them.
“The intent of our treaty when we signed was to co-exist and share, not have one body dictating and controlling us,” Morris said.
MNR officials have not returned requests for comment.