In January of 2013 a proposed traditional hunt at the site of the Short Hills Provincial Park in Thorold, Ontario dominated local news headlines in Niagara.
That initial coverage said little about treaty rights and amplified the voices of a vocal minority in the area who called the hunt “illegal” and who opposed it on diverse ethical grounds.
When the hunt took place some members of the local animal advocacy community found themselves in the awkward position of standing alongside members of the settler (non-native) hunting community united in their opposition to the Traditional Haudenosaunee deer hunt taking place.
Many of the groups involved had not organized any animal-rights demonstrations in the community for years but they were on hand for the weekend as Haudenosaunee hunters, endorsed by the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, killed 4 deer in the Short Hills.
Other sections of the animal advocacy community spoke out against protest of the hunt and urged animal advocates to make the focus about respecting treaty rights.
Statements along these lines were released by the Niagara Animal Defense League, Hamilton/Halton Animal Liberation Team and the Grassroots Ontario Animal Liberation Network which urged settler animal advocates to educate themselves on treaty rights and to respect the autonomy and sovereignty of Onkwehon:we nations and peoples.
Local organizations also joined together in February of this year to march a giant Two Row Wampum flag through downtown St. Catharines in response to what they saw as racist and colonial mentalities at play in opposing the hunt.
The issue is back again as another proposed hunt is coming at the end of this year. Those same voices from before are again organizing – this time under the banner of the Shorthills Wildlife Alliance. Again, their understanding of treaty rights is flawed and exaggerated claims dominate local news media.
The campaign is short sighted in so many ways. Since this last hunt hundreds of thousands of animals have died at various industrial slaughterhouses across the Niagara Region a point which no animal advocacy group in Niagara has organized against.
The Provincial Park itself was only made possible through practices of land theft and genocide.
Even the most basic analysis of our society should make settler animal advocates realize that it is our dominant industrial society that poses the largest threat to domesticated farmed animals, wildlife and the destruction of habitat.
Why then is one section of that community focusing their efforts squarely on this traditional deer hunt – which is clearly protected by treaties? I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.
Last week I wrote a story about the Coastal First Nations campaign to protect Bears in the Great Bear Rainforest in the Two Row Times.
That initiative has gotten widespread support from the settler animal advocacy community. Those initiatives are easy to support it is where we stand on issues where we diverge that truly tests our politics and our role as allies.
Treaty rights need to be respected, especially when they are inconvenient or distasteful to settler society. Short Hills should serve as a lesson to animal advocates to broaden their political vision and understand the role settler colonialism plays not only in shaping the land, but also in shaping their advocacy for animals.[quote]Dylan Powell is a community organizer from St. Catharines, On. Born and raised in Port Maitland, On the Haldimand Tract and at the mouth of the Grand River, he is committed to the Guswenta as a political reality. Dylan will be covering animal advocacy issues and how they intersect with the Guswenta for the Two Row Times.[/quote]