In Kuujjuuarapik (or Whapmagoostui), whale hunting is a tradition still practiced by our Inuit brethren. When the whale is sighted out amongst the rolling waves of the Hudson’s Bay, people anxiously await the return of the favored muktuk, or raw whale skin, a delicacy that may go the way of the passenger pigeon. The number of whales has gone down dramatically, since high-powered motorboats with every technological wonder aboard and big barreled rifles have changed the style of the Inuit hunter. These seafaring nomads go from one pod to another in the quest for more muktuk.
Lately, the beluga has been the centre of the target at the end of one of these big bored ballistic whapmag killers, enough so that the Inuit must go south of the 55th parallel in order to harvest their traditional Inuit fare. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have allotted some area in the James Bay area, near the Cape Jones, for the harvest of belugas. This is directly due to the over harvesting of beluga in the traditional waters off the Hudson and Ungava coasts by our Inuit brothers in Nunavik.
What gets me about this scenario is that the DFO will go overboard to stop people from getting the precious lobster in the cool waters off the Burnt Church coast, yet will authorize and recommend the killing of belugas in areas where the white whale has not been hunted since the signing of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and have been basically left to thrive in those semi-briny waters. What’s the difference? Is it because muktuk is not a taste found in fancy restaurants of the south or has no value other than to the palate of the Inuit? I have nothing against the hunt of whales but I cannot understand the rational of one (so called dominant) society saying to another society (who has been around long before they were) that they cannot practice their traditional rights to harvest when on the other hand, say go ahead and make your day to another aboriginal society and culture who have nearly depleted their allowable and allocated resources? Is lobster now on the endangered species list?
Speaking of endangered species, I understand that the honest second hand car dealer is now on the list of endangered humans, since the signing of the great peace accord has put many a derelict vehicle out the back door in favour of the shiny new 2003 models. I had a hard time finding second hand vehicles in the Abitibi region as the dealers say that my particular model has been selling like hotcakes for many years (yet no one brought any back to trade in?). New vehicles, sure thing, but trying to find a decent deal when you’re rumored to be floating in dollars is pretty hard to do.
Another nasty pattern that I see surfacing is that after many years of debate to whether or not we Cree have potential or not as partners in business, is that the new peace has opened the gateway to the north (somewhere in Abitibi) and that the flow of funds southbound from tax-free lands to the mall-infested south is more welcome than ever, year round no less. Yep, we are no longer regarded as a bi-annual market (hockey and softball tourneys), but we are now welcome all year round. What a relief, knowing this new trend is sure to hike up prices in anticipation of our newfound wealth. Will we ever get out of the stereotype of the rich Cree? I hope that one day my income bracket will hover a lot higher above the dollar store market, and I get my buck’s worth out of this deal.