Kahnawake Mohawks get Cree help with beaver boom
The Mohawks of Kahnawake on Montreal's South Shore have called on Cree trappers to help them grapple with an overpopulation of beavers that is wreaking havoc on the community.
"They've been a nuisance, chopping down trees," said Mohawk Council chief Robert Patton. He said the beavers' dam-building habits have caused floods and blocked roadways.
The Mohawks were key players in Canada's fur trade, but the descendants of those early trappers and merchants have lost their trapping skills. So the Mohawk Council called on the more experienced Cree from Waskaganish on the southern tip of James Bay.
"The Crees from James Bay have been doing this all their life up to present day, and it's part of a major tradition of their nation. In Kahnawake, we've lost it because of the fast role of life in the city area," said Patton.
Three Cree trappers drove the 1100 kilometres from Waskaganish to Kahnawake late last week to lead a four-day hunting blitz, culling dozens of beavers.
Gordon Weistche, a Cree trapper, was happy to share his knowledge with his Mohawk students on his first trip to Kahnawake.
"We set traps along their routes. There [are] routes under the water," he said.
Once caught, the beavers were skinned, boiled and made into a meal.
The beaver-hunting blitz is also a teaching tool for the Mohawks, many of whom gathered to watch Weistche skin a beaver in the traditional Cree way.
Patton said it is a learning opportunity for adults and teenagers who want to learn a bit more about their culture.
Mohawk Stone Phillips, 14, said he enjoyed following the trappers around on Saturday.
He was shown how to properly carry a beaver around his shoulders.
"It was pretty heavy, and it was wet," he said, calling that moment the best of the day.
The Cree trappers are due to check their traps for the last time on Tuesday. By Sunday, they had caught 29 beavers, two otters and four muskrats.