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Indian Hunting Rights

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      AUGUST 1976      v06 n08 p06  
The rights for Indians to hunt and fish has been a controversial point since it was first outlined in the treaties.

Treaty Number Six states, "The said Indians shall have right to pursue their avocation of hunting and fishing throughout the tract surrendered as hereinfore described subject to such laws made by Her Government of Her Dominion of Canada".

The original Treaty signed wished to see that their future generations would be able to hunt and fish for food. Many Indian people today depend on hunting to feed their families and reduce their food bill. This is especially true in the north where meat is either frozen or comes in a can, both of which are costly.

Indian people view their right to hunt very clearly as a treaty right. But there are abuses. Cases have been reported of senseless killing and wastage of meat. Other cases have been reported of the selling of game by Treaty Indians. It is no wonder then that a white backlash is developing. Sometimes Indian people can be the biggest threat to their own treaties.

Of course, the abuses are the ones that the most is heard about. Little or nothing is heard of the majority of the Indian people who follow their traditional methods of conservation, hunting only for the food they need.

Another area of concern is the fact that Indians are allowed to hunt on unoccupied Crown land only. Each year there is less and less available.

Each year Indian people are charged under the Migratory Game Birds Act for hunting out of season. The migratory game birds convention was agreed between three nations: Canada, United States, and Mexico. A fourth nation, the Indian nation was ignored.

The result has been that the Migratory Game Birds Act has caused more confusion and frustration among Indian people than any other piece of hunting legislation.

The Saskatchewan Chiefs have instructed the F.S.I. Executive to negotiate Indian hunting and fishing rights rather than fight it in a court of law. A court will hand down a decision that will be binding and set precedence. If the court goes against the Indian people, we will have a lengthy and expensive fight to the Supreme Court with no assurance of success.

The Provincial Government agrees with the F.S.I. on this issue and is prepared to negotiate with the Indians and the Federal Government.

They have also taken the same stance with respect to the resolution of partial land entitlement that negotiation is preferable to the courts.

The original treaty signees gave us the right to hunt and fish in freedom. They wanted to see the Indian way of life continue.

But times change. The land is now settled and conservation laws abound. We must face certain realities and correct the abuses or the loss of hunting rights will not be entirely somebody else's fault.