Six Nations hunters have resumed deer hunting on their traditional hunting lands in the Dundas Valley.
After a holiday break, the valley will be closed for another eight days between Jan. 7 to 17 to accommodate the hunting. A group of Haudenosaunee hunters will harvest a maximum of 80 deer this season, which began in November and paused over Christmas.
The hunt is the result of an agreement between the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) and the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority. The Haudenosaunee group approached HCA about an agreement in 2011, said Coun. Brian McHattie, HCA chair.
“It's been very positive,” he said. “It recognizes the treaty rights and makes sure those are implemented in a safe and ecologically sound way.”
Six Nations members have the right to hunt and fish on the land under the 18th-century Treaty of Albany, also known as the Nanfan treaty. The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs confirmed the treaty's validity to the HCA in 2011, McHattie said.
The HCA and the aboriginal group penned an agreement the same year, when the allowable harvesting limit was 40 deer. Haudenosaunee hunters took 31 that season, said Chris Firth Eagland, HCA's chief administrative officer.
This year's limit is 80 deer. So far, 29 have been taken.
There is a heavy population of deer in the valley, which has led to overgrazing and damage to threatened plant species, the two groups said in a media release.
"We're confident that we have been able to find a place where it is safe for our hunters to go; where we can exercise legal traditional rights carefully; where, as a result of there being no other hunters, the deer population has become such that is damaging the balance of the local ecosystem,” said Brian Skye of the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority in the statement. “And we're grateful that we are able to work with partners who share our ecological values.”
The deer will go to longhouses for ceremonies and to elders, as well as to feed hunters' families, Skye said.
Harvesting is on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays this week and next week. The HCA land will be closed those days.
HCA lands bounded by Martin Road to the east, Jerseyville Road to the south, Paddy Green Road to the west and Powerline Road to the north will be affected.
HCA last counted the valley's deer population was in 2010. It's scheduled to do another one later this winter, said Firth Eagland.
The count involves flying over the area in a helicopter and counting the visible deer on the snowy terrain.