Hunting has been a way of feeding families for the Haudenosaunee for centuries.
To many, it is a form of connecting with the practices of ancestors and a means of eating according to a traditional diet.
However, a small group began protesting on Tuesday, October 22 against the seventh annual deer hunt that takes place at the Short Hills Provincial Park.
In the past it has been cited that anti-hunt protesters have established a vehicle stall that is supervised by the Niagara Regional Police Services (NRPS) and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
During the “stall”, anti-hunt protesters surround Haudenosaunee hunters’ vehicles, aim their flashlights into the faces of drivers and their passengers, record license plates, count off the occupants, and call out various derogatory statements while families are in their vehicles.
Currently, there rests a petition online to “stop the barricade at Short Hills” which has garnered 1716 signatures our of 2500.
The hunt is expected to continue Nov. 14 and 28, Dec. 5 and conclude on Jan. 16. Each harvest day is set to begin one half-hour before sunrise and end one half-hour after sunset. The park will be closed the morning after each harvest for maintenance until noon.
Protesters are concerned that with the hunt continuing into January, it could lead to the damage of pregnant deer.
However, this particular hunt is a right guaranteed under treaties that date back to the 1700s.
In past years, deer harvests have been held in The Pinery and Rondeau Provincial Parks. The hunters also use archery equipment and follow mandatory safety protocols.
But although supporters of Haudenosaunee Right to Hunt say there’s a growing acceptance of the annual deer hunt, protesters who gathered at the park’s entrance Tuesday were insistent that they are more concerned than ever.
As the seventh annual Haudenosaunee harvest of white-tailed deer began, Elizabeth Chitty from Supporters of Haudenosaunee Right to Hunt said there has been a shift in public sentiment around Indigenous rights and culture, including an increased understanding of the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Chitty said the organization has co-ordinated educational workshops to inform people about the hunt in past years. It will also be hosting a one-day Indigenous Human Rights Conference Nov. 16 at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.
The conference will feature Indigenous women scholars who will address a number of Indigenous Rights issues.
As a result of the community initiatives, people who may have originally opposed the hunt at least have greater understanding of the treaty rights and Indigenous culture and the traditions that the harvest represents.
St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik, the Strong Water Women, and the Niagara Women’s Drum Group, will help to open the conference Saturday, November 16 at the PAC in the city’s downtown.