The Ross River Dena Council (RRDC) has issued a notice stating that non-Kaska hunters hoping to hunt in the Ross River area this upcoming season will be required to obtain a permit from the Yukon First Nation.
“We are very worried about the caribou and moose populations in our territory,” the RRDC wrote in a full-page notice published in the News June 15.
“…Due to our deep concern for caribou and moose in our homeland, we hereby require that any non-Kaska hunters wishing to hunt in our territory must obtain a permit from RRDC. This permit will be subject to our Dena laws.”
The notice also states that caribou and moose hunting in the Ross River area will close Sept. 15, and that the RRDC is imposing a moratorium on hunting in several places within its traditional territory — including Keele Peak, Sheldon Mountain, Sheldon Lake, 41 Mountain, Blind Lake, Pelly Lake, the Pelly River and the Ross River — “due to the tremendous pressure” felt in those places.
“Our people have always governed human activity, including hunting, on our lands,” the notice reads. “We have inherited the duty to look after our home according to our Dena A’ Nīzīn (our Dena laws). This is the only home we have.”
The Ross River Dena Elders Council drafted and approved the notice with the support of the RRDC.
RRDC Chief Jack Caesar did not respond to requests for comment.
It is not immediately clear from the notice how the permit application process or enforcement will work.
The notice and introduction of a permit system is the latest in RRDC’s attempt to manage hunting — and overhunting — within its traditional territory. The First Nation, one of three in the territory without a self-government agreement, has previously taken the territorial government to court over what it says is a lack of proper consultation when it comes to issuing hunting permits and tags.
In emails June 20, Environment Yukon spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn wrote that the RRDC sent a letter to the Yukon government June 14 to notify officials that the notice would be published the next day.
“In regards to hunting laws for this season, we will need to have discussions with Ross River Dena Council,” Stasyszyn wrote. “We hope to provide more clarity to hunters soon, as we know this is an issue of interest to many.”
Yukon Outfitters Association executive director Shawn Wasel said the notice caught outfitters who operate in the Ross River area off-guard.
“(We’ve) reached out to Ross River to help better understand what specific concerns they have and have also been, ourselves, in contact with the Yukon Department of Environment to see if there may be conservation issues,” Wasel said in a phone interview June 22.
He added that RRDC had previously expressed concerns to outfitters about the volume of traffic increasing in the Ross River area during hunting season, but that he had not heard concerns about moose and caribou populations.
Needing to obtain direct permission from Yukon First Nations to hunt on their traditional territories is not unheard of. Hunters are required to get written permission from First Nations governments to hunt on Category A Settlement Lands, and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation require hunters to obtain their permission to hunt bison on their settlement lands.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org