Ross River Dena Council (RRDC) will once again be requiring non-Kaska hunters to obtain permits from either its band office or lands department before hunting on Kaska territory.
RRDC deputy chief Robby Dick confirmed in an interview June 25 that the First Nation will be issuing its own permits, separate from the Yukon government, for sheep and moose come Aug. 1.
However, RRDC will not be issuing any permits for caribou, and will also be expanding areas where hunting moratoriums are in place to include sections of the Pelly and Ross River corridors.
“When we’re seeing the influx of people coming in, in our traditional territory, we have the inherent responsibility and a right … to govern how all people walk on Ross River Dena Council land, according to Dena ethics,” Dick said.
The First Nation implemented its own permitting system for non-Kaska hunters wishing to hunt on its traditional territory in 2018 after concerns that unsustainable pressures were being put on local animal populations — particularly, caribou.
RRDC has also been in a long-standing disagreement with the Yukon government over wildlife management practices and consultation over hunting, with the issue at one point going to court.
Dick said that RRDC believes the local caribou population is continuing to decline, which is why it’s not issuing any permits for the species this year.
“This is not about excluding any non-Kaska from hunting on Kaska land. Rather, it’s about, you know, Ross River Dena Council having say in the governance of … our land according to Kaska Dena ethics,” he said.
“… Ross River Dena know their land better than anybody.”
He added that RRDC citizens rely on meat from the land “more than anyone else does, and you know, it’s important for physical and cultural, spiritual health.”
RRDC’s lands department is still discussing how many sheep and moose permits will be issued.
Non-Kaska hunters have largely been abiding by RRDC’s wishes since 2018, according to Dick.
“They have been respectful, hopefully they will continue to be respectful of, you know, our permitting system,” he said.
“I think other First Nations in the Yukon could agree, you know, it’s very respectful if someone comes into their territory, to their back yard … you want consent before going into someone’s traditional area, it’s just out of respect.”
Environment Yukon spokesperson Diana Dryburgh-Moraal wrote in a June 26 email that the Yukon government is “committed to working with Ross River Dena Council to address their concerns with hunting and fishing as well as other matters related to wildlife management and conservation in the Ross River area.”
While there is no requirement on the Yukon government’s end for hunters to obtain RRDC licences and the laws of general application apply to the area, Dryburgh-Moraal wrote that the government encourages “licensed hunters to voluntarily comply with Ross River Dena Council’s permits.”
“We recognize the importance of ensuring that Dena culture and traditions are respected,” she wrote.
Contact Jackie Hong at email@example.com