Caribou hang out on the Alaska Highway in 2013. Interactions between Ross River Dena Council members and non-Kaska hunters in the Ross River area have been largely positive after non-Kaska hunters were asked to obtain a permit directly from the First Nation. (Jesse Winter/Yukon News file)

Non-Kaska hunters respectful of RRDC hunting rules, says councillor

RRDC councillor Derrick Redies said the First Nation will “absolutely” have permits next year, too

Non-Kaska hunting in Ross River Dena Council’s (RRDC) traditional territory this season have been largely respectful of its new hunting rules, a councillor for the First Nation says.

Earlier this summer, RRDC placed ads in the News stating that it would require all non-Kaska hunters hoping to hunt in the Ross River area this season to obtain a permit directly from the First Nation. It also issued a moratorium on hunting in 11 areas and an early end to hunting on moose, caribou and sheep.

While the ads appeared to have initially caught the Yukon government and many hunters off-guard, RRDC councillor Derrick Redies said that interactions between RRDC members and hunters in Ross River and out on the land throughout hunting season have been “largely positive.”

“Naturally, I knew there was going to be people that were for it and people that are against it, but largely, it’s been hugely positive,” Redies said in an interview Sept. 28. “I mean, a lot of the non-Kaska hunters that have applied, I’ve had some dialogue with them, they totally understand why and it’s very humbling for me to know that such a large number of the people we’re dealing with really understood the initiatives.”

Hunters who weren’t aware of RRDC’s permits or moratoriums also acted respectfully when RRDC members informed them of the rules, Redies added, and either chose to hunt elsewhere or went back into town to obtain a permit.

The RRDC gave out all 15 of its caribou permits “really quickly,” Redies said, while not all 25 of its sheep permits were claimed. Redies said he wasn’t sure whether RRDC issued all 43 of its moose permits.

Redies said he hasn’t seen any of the racist comments posted online in response to news about the RRDC’s hunting rules, but would invite anyone who feels “like they’re being threatened or pushed away to first come down, learn more about our culture and maybe that will provide a little more understanding as to why we’re taking this initiative.”

“I would always take the opportunity to first say that, we were not about trying to shut down or keep out any non-Kaska hunters, you know?” he said. “… We’ve got the inherent duty, responsibility and rights that we want to protect.”

The issue is so important to RRDC, he added, that the First Nation has taken on introducing and enforcing its permits and moratoriums without any funding, with elders even “pulling their own money out of their pockets” to help pay for the newspaper ads.

“That’s pretty powerful, it just shows the commitment that they have,” Redies said.

RRDC will “absolutely” have permits in place again next year, Redies said. He’s also hopeful that RRDC will be able to have more conversations with the Yukon government on hunting and conservation issues so that “we can come to some form of collaboration and understanding.”

“We have to co-exist together, we’re not just going to go away,” he said.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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