I was upset to learn of the ignorance of Montreal Gazette Outdoors columnist George Gruenefeld’s opinion piece on January 6. It showed a serious lack of knowledge of both the laws of Canada and Quebec, but also that of Native culture and lifestyles.

It concerned the Huron First Nations people continuing their traditional pursuits, namely hunting, in the article, Gruenefeld questions what type of message the provincial government is sending by allowing the Huron to hunt “out of season” and giving them one week of the yearly non-Native hunting season. He asks what the government is tryingto tell the non-Native hunter: Is he is a second-class citizen or will he get second priority? Articles and opinions like this seem to be popping up all over the place as intolerance to Native lifestyles grows. Hunting as a means of cultural integrity is not making other people second-class citizens. While I cannot talk for the Huron or other First Nations peoples, I know in the Cree First Nations all Crees think of themselves as hunters. For us the lifestyle includes not only sustenance hunting but is an integral part of Creeness. It is our bond with the land. It is a time of sharing. A portion of the hunt going to Elders is a very real way that we keep in touch with not only our past and culture but also how we continue to build upon that bond with the land.

In the harvest of wildlife in over 5,000 years, no animal has been made extinct through our actions. To the Crees, the animals give themselves to us. If you disrespect an animal you will have bad luck in your hunting. The bear has put his paws over your eyes in the hunt, the Crees say. You may return to the animals’ good favor only after you show respect for a period of time.

With this respect we have developed a system of wildlife management unparalleled in the western world. Each trapline has a tallyman. He is an experienced hunter. His experience and knowledge passed down to him by the previous talleyman. He, as the “boss,” decides who hunts and how much is harvested of any type of animal in the land under his care. As he trains new hunters he looks for that special person, the one who will succeed him later in life. The one who can look at the land as a whole and say this animal must not be hunted as it will affect other inter-linked populations, including man. The system of harvesting was sustainable and very much a part of Cree culture.

In this way, hunting for the Crees is not in the same category as non-Native sport hunting. It isn’t a special privilege but rather a serious responsibility. These hunting and harvesting rights are in the James Bay Agreement and other treaties that exist today.

Yes, Gruenefeld and other non-Native hunters might have all their equipment seized and be hauled into court for doing what Crees and other First Nations peoples do all year-round. But hunting is not an important component of your culture. While you know you aren’t second-class citizens, I do believe you should have second priority as your need is not as great as ours. I think that allocating a week of the controlled hunt in the Laurentides exclusively to the Huron shows remarkable change and sensitivity on the part of the Quebec government to Native culture.

I, for one, am glad to see the Quebec government shying away from the “traditional” governmental practices of assimilation.