Several members of Simpcw First Nation recently took part in a hunt in Jasper National Park.
According to Chief Nathan Matthew, his understanding is that three elk and one mountain sheep were taken.
He was present for part of the hunt, which took place last weekend near Snaring River east of Jasper, but did not stay until the end, he said.
“Our intent was to hunt in an area that’s within our traditional territory,” the chief said. “We’ve been talking with Jasper National Park for two years or more about this.”
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The hunting party included two youth, which Matthew felt was particularly valuable in that it helped passed down the traditional Simpcw way of life.
The meat from the hunt will be shared by the community.
Nine hunters plus a half-dozen supporters took part.
It took a bit of discussion to get the hunt arranged, he said. Parks Canada has no relevant policy in place, such a hunt appears to be against the law, and they had never seriously considered the matter.
Issued to be discussed included public safety and the sustainability of the wildlife being harvested.
Band members would like to repeat the hunt at sometime, but not anytime soon.
According to Matthew, more than a dozen First Nation groups have an interest in the park.
“We’ve had our turn,” he said.
He noted that Parks Canada works with the Jasper Aboriginal Forum to integrate First Nations groups into park management.
There is even a designated piece of land within the park for Aboriginal cultural and spiritual practices.
“It’s quite precedent-setting. It was probably the first time anyone has hunted in Jasper National Park for over 100 years,” the chief said.
The hunt was a first for Jasper but not totally unprecedented, Matthew pointed out.
Members of Simpcw held a hunt within Mt. Robson Provincial Park in about the year 2000.
Last year, the Simpcw held a symbolic walk in Tete Jaune Cache to mark the 100th anniversary of the forced expulsion of 60 or 70 band members from that location to the reserve at Chu Chua.
When Jasper National Park was formed in 1907, those First Nations groups who lived there or who used the park area for hunting or gathering were no longer allowed to stay there.