Hunting-Demise of Hunting in Sinixt Territory

American Progressivist thinking at the turn of the 20th century was selling the idea that all components of living nature were “resources” (i.e. wildlife, trees, and fish) that needed to be scientifically managed. Although slow to follow, Canadian governments eventually centralized control over wildlife. They validated their position by indicating it was a form of protection from resource privatization. Newly formed policies and regulations, however, would change wildlife management in Canada forever.

As a result of centralized control, wildlife in Canada was no longer a “local commons”, where wildlife was informally regulated by local user groups. The power shifted to newly formed bureaucracies, and imposed policies specifically targeted people that depended on the land for subsistence. Indigenous peoples and rural communities, seen as the poorest people, bared the worst of the hardships resulting from government control of wildlife during this time and still today.

The game act, for example, left no consideration for families or individuals who relied on hunting for subsistence and largely eliminated the use of wildlife for food. Individuals, after purchasing a permit, were allowed one deer per season. Newly appointed game wardens during this time recognized that such restrictions were unreasonable, as the deer limit would not allow families to support themselves throughout the year. They submitted reports to the government and their concerns became a reality for thousands of people living in Canada.

A major food shortage soon emerged once new policies were in place. In a preliminary response, the government granted special permission to Indian agents, which involved distributing permits to certain individuals. This permit gave indigenous people the “right” to an increased seasonal limit within their traditional territory. Aside from being an insult to indigenous peoples, as they hold inherent rights to the land (i.e. hunting), this was nothing more than a so-called “quick fix” method which ultimately failed.

Reports to the government regarding thousands of indigenous peoples dying of starvation, in addition to an extreme spike in welfare, prompted the government to clearly state that wildlife regulations did not apply to indigenous peoples. The situation on the ground however was a different story. Indigenous peoples hunting “out of season” were charged first and then later had to prove their rights. Not much has changed in this regard.