Letter to the Editor

Time to step up Open letter to Darius Elias: I hope that you were misquoted in your last interview with reporter John Thompson.

Time to step up

Open letter to Darius Elias:

I hope that you were misquoted in your last interview with reporter John Thompson. In the article you blame YTG for the caribou slaughter. There are many statements attributed to you that simply do not make any sense.

When we Second Nation hunters read that first story about First Nation hunters with NWT plates, radios and ATVs … blah blah blah — we have heard it all before.

A bunch of First Nation hunters shot up the Dempster Highway. Big deal. What’s new?

Sure they got a bunch of caribou.

Sure they used trucks, ATVs and rifles.

So what?

First Nation hunters could use dog sleds or helicopters. They could use spears or assault rifles.

First Nations can hunt on highways and in national parks.

They can take as many animals as they want, as often as they want to. We get that part.

The First Nation right to hunt trumps every rule made by any of our politicians.

A conservation officer cannot enforce Second Nation rules on First Nation hunters.

Environment Minister Elaine Taylor cannot make new ones.

Premier Dennis Fentie and Prime Minister Stephen Harper cannot jump in and tell First Nation people how to hunt.

George Bush, the Pope … nobody has that power.

Second Nation laws simply do not apply to First Nation hunters and they are not enforceable.

So with that point made, I was wondering, why the big, black headline, wherein you blame YTG, and why were you quoted as saying that Elaine Taylor “must do something before it is too late”?

I hope that was the misquote.

I understand our strange system of government where you, the Opposition party, must oppose everything that the ruling party is trying to do.

I get that part.

What I don’t get is your total lack of ideas when it comes to solving this problem like we have on the Dempster.

Pointing the blame-finger at an elected member who you know full well does not have the right or ability to control First Nation hunting practices is not a solution.

After First Nation governments signed the Umbrella Final Agreement … First Nations were given self-government.

You asked for it and you got it.

You have the right to govern. To govern, means to rule. You have the right to make rules and the right to enforce the rules you make. That is your new job description. You can no longer point at Taylor, nor can you slam YTG.

We are now pointing at Elias and saying, “He must do something before it is too late.”

You see, government rules over my hunting buddies and me.

They say when I can hunt and they tell me where.

They let me know what size rifle I can use and the draw weight on my bow, if I choose to hunt with it.

They dictate the sex of the animal I harvest, the number I can take and how I am to look after the meat.

If the number of animals diminish, they close areas and tell me to hunt somewhere else.

The Yukon government sets my hunting rules and if I don’t listen … there are consequences.

Now Elias, now that you have self-government, you need to start to govern.

It is now your job.

Get on it.

Get together with the leaders of the Yukon First Nations and the leaders of the NWT and make some rules that we can all live with. And make sure that you have a few consequences for those that don’t want to, or refuse to listen to these commonsense rules.

You can no longer blame the Yukon government.

Self-government means that you must do it yourself.

The Yukon government is busy governing the rest of us hunters. Had those hunters been Second Nation, if they had shot more than the two caribou they were allowed, had they been hunting in an unethical manner … truck gone, quad gone, rifle gone, licence gone.

Torrie Hunter, the CO, was right there. He would have done his job … had the hunters been Second Nation.

But they were First Nation. So now it is time for you to do your job. There is a problem, get out there and govern.

You will find out very quickly that governing is a lot harder than the finger-pointing, and the blaming that you are presently involved in.

With regards to the no-hunting corridor that used to be in place, that was a great plan.

The Second Nation hunters had to go a kilometre from the road and hunt by Yukon rules, and along came some native hunters and they parked by the road and started to shoot out toward us.

Somehow that was not a workable system.

You seem to endorse it.

The government did not “cave into some pressure.”

Having two sets of rules is unworkable. Try playing hockey with different rules for the different teams. Commonsense threw that rule away.

You also state that people phone you and complain about native hunting practices.

These people are asking you to govern.

You have been elected to govern, and they expect you to do something. With the right to govern comes the responsibility to govern. Once again, the ball is in your court.

The circle blaming was almost humourous.

Yukon First Nations blame the “polar bear plates” and the NWT leaders insist their hunters “would not condone such practices.”

NWT leaders slam Elias with Old Crow boat hunting and Elias shoots back with the odd statement that this type of hunting is “ancient.”

Look, Elias, we do think for ourselves.

Caribou fences and Martha Benjamin showing me a rawhide snare, skin boats and spears — those are ancient.

A Honda 50 kicker and a 30-30 is not. Circle blaming is not an effective solution. Nothing gets fixed. Governing has still not taken place.

Here is the problem. The Porcupine herd is declining.

Many herds have been decimated in the Northwest Territories and some natives are coming over to this herd for a repeat performance.

So here is my solution. Since you are the Liberal MLA up there, I am sending you a request.

Could you set up a small group of people, two or three is about right, and have them go to the calving grounds next spring.

Find out about how many caribou are dropping calves.

Is it 20 per cent, 50 per cent or 80 per cent? I don’t know.

I just want to know if it is a breeding issue.

If most cows are with calves, breeding isn’t the problem.

Keep watching and see if the calves make it to 30 days.

That gets them out of that young-calf danger zone.

If many calves have disappeared, is this a predator issue?

Perhaps they are dying of some disease.

Someone needs to head out there to find out why the herd numbers are dropping.

Is this simply a natural cycle which has happened for centuries?

Could it be that First Nation hunters are overharvesting?

These are the questions that should be answered.

The numbers are dropping right now and someone “must do something before it’s too late.”

I hear that you have been flying southeast to Washington, DC, for a few years now.

But still the herd keeps dropping.

That trip might be fun, but it is not a solution for the present problem.

You are in the enviable position of being a First Nation person in the Yukon government. Use either system, or a combination of both.

I know that a sleek, fast jet and a cushy hotel with room service beats flying in a Super Cub, living in a tent and snarfling Kraft Dinner, but we need some answers.

Don’t push this off to some other department, you need to step up to the plate, Elias.

You are the one elected to govern.

Find out what is happening, make some rules that will rectify the situation and then make sure that those rules are followed.

That is what self-government is all about.

You were right on one point. Somebody “must do something before it is too late.”

You can be that person.

For the herd. For all the people of the Yukon. Don’t let us down.

Peter Harms


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