On August 30, we gathered at the arena to discuss a moose management plan for the coming year of 1995.
Twenty-six tallymen and their families were there. Of course, a lot of other hunters and trappers were there too.
As the discussions became heated, personally I felt this was a climax of all the meetings and arguments we had over the many years discussing forestry operations and how the moose habitats and mating grounds were destroyed.
We also discussed the massive clearcutting and how some of the animals were moving elsewhere. Of course, the forestry roads were also mentioned and how they are bringing in the thrill-killers.
I do not know how to mention this without being prejudiced, but the hunters and trappers out on the land when the sports hunting season opens for moose talk about float planes flying around low on rivers and lakes. They say some pilots and their partners are drunk. They know this because the plane landed and the sports hunters talked with them.
Just last fall 1993, our new Chief, John Kitchen, caught and reported two sports hunters shooting two moose on one permit from a float plane.
Waswanipi traplines cover a vast territory and a lot of it is moose grounds, or was.
What one hunter is saying about the illegal activity of certain sports hunters on his trapline, another is voicing the same thing about his trapline, way at the other end.
I’m only 37 years old, and hunted most of my life on a trapline. Now I am a CTA Local Fur Office, since last year.
I do the captures reports and the big game survey. Here in Waswanipi, we have 52 large traplines and it is a privilege for me to say I do care and have a special relationship with each and every one of the 52 tallymen or persons who are responsible for the caring of the land.
Caring for the land and its creatures is essential for the success of hunting peoples to survive and maintain a way of life which their ancestors pursued centuries ago.
Traplines or territories, whatever you want to call them, are passed on or handed down to the eldest son or person most caring or knowledgeable about wildlife and the land.
I remember 12 or 13 years ago—I was much younger then—standing with these same tallymen.
Some of them have already passed away, like my grandfather, arguing then about forestry operations and sports hunters on our traplines.
No wonder the tension in the arena was high on August 30, 1994.
We have always stated that we hunters and trappers still out on the land are in the best position to monitor exploitation of the land and wildlife.
When we hunters or tallymen get together, we have a pretty good picture of the state our traplines are in and the impacts this will have on our way of life.
For me, it is frustrating to see something done at the 11th hour, when we in Waswanipi have been discussing the steady decline of the moose population for 12 or 13 years.
Also, we made a demand to have more Cree conservation officers patrol the lawless land. It was coming for very good reasons, the people’s decision to ban sports hunting and fishing for five years on Category II lands starting this fall.
It will have an impact on the surrounding traplines that are not part of Category II. But we took that chance, after speaking with the tallymen of Waswanipi traplines that are outside Category II. We knew we could lose something that was part of our lives, not only two or three weeks of a year.
The moose was a source of food. Every piece of the animal was utilized—even the bones are still used as tools. The moose hide was used as lacing for snowshoes or tanned to make mittens or moccasins.
Yes, we had a lot more to lose than anybody else on this matter.
The young and the old on that day agreed on some-thing. For a start, they agreed to ban sports hunting and fishing on Category II lands of Waswanipi immediately.
The people of Waswanipi decided also to stand by the resolution that was proposed by the Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Coordinating Committee in the summer and to try to reduce their moose kills each according to their own way.