By John McFadden
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Eleven adult male deer, or bucks, were harvested by hunters from the Shawanaga and Wasauksing First Nations during last month’s controlled harvest inside Killbear Provincial Park west of Parry Sound.
The figures were released Jan. 11, by Shawanaga band manager Adam Good.
It was the first time since the park opened in 1964 that Indigenous hunters were allowed inside the park boundary in order to harvest deer on their traditional and treaty hunting grounds.
It was held from Dec. 15 to 18 and the park was closed to the public for the hunt for safety reasons. Hunters were restricted to shotguns only.
Good said that 15 hunters in total from the two territories took part in the event.
There had been concerns that protesters, who had expressed opposition to the harvest on social media, might also try to invade the park for the harvest but Good said that never materialized.
“We were thinking that there could’ve been some sort of petition or a protest but that never occurred. It wasn’t a huge hunt. The number of hunters was low there were some COVID scares but it was good for the first start. It was more about awareness,” Good said.
He added that the harvest was the culmination of years of negotiations between park staff, other officials and the two First Nations.
Good said that it is not yet clear if the harvest will become an annual event. He said they may look at making it a bow hunt in the future.
He added that youngsters and Elders also accompanied the hunters with a goal of educating the young people about responsible harvesting on land that had used been used by Indigenous hunters for hundreds of years.
Good said that the two First Nations will work with the park on just exactly what future hunts might look like.
Prior to the hunt getting underway, Good said that a prayer and smudging ceremony was held.
Both chiefs, Shawanaga’s Wayne Pamajewon and Warren Tabobondung, took part, he added. Good said that some hunters also brought their families with them for the historic harvest.
“The (kids) were amazed. It’s a learning experience and they loved being outdoors. It’s something you can’t teach in the classroom. It’s being outdoors and experiencing it first hand. It was a life lesson that the youth won’t soon forget,” Good said.
“They now understand that this is traditional territory where they can exercise their rights whether that be hunting, fishing or picking berries.”
Good said the venison from the harvest has been shared with community members, particularly Elders. He added that the food was appreciated by all, especially during the global pandemic when getting out of the home to shop has been more complicated.
“The meat was delivered to the Elders’ homes. They were very thankful. The Elders always enjoy receiving venison or moose,” Good said.
Kenton Otterbein, education leader for the park, stated in an email that the harvest went off without a hitch.
John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.