Parks Canada, First Nations take down trapper's cabin in Wood Buffalo National Park
Mikisew Cree man built on shore of Pine Lake, against park rules and without consulting local First Nations
A Fort Chipewyan, Alta., trapper is looking at options after a cabin he built in Wood Buffalo National Park was taken down by order of Parks Canada and two nearby First Nations.
Robert Grandejambe Jr. started building a cabin more than a year ago on the south side of Pine Lake, a recreation area in Wood Buffalo National Park, which straddles the N.W.T.-Alberta border.
Grandejambe is Mikisew Cree and a fourth generation trapper. He is legally entitled to trap in the park. He says he chose the location of the cabin because there hasn't been trapping in the area for the last 20 years.
"I want to continue my traditional ways of practising, exercising," he says.
"Being out on the land, trapping, harvesting is essential. And to bring in the education portion where I can bring in students, it's accessible year-round."
And that's the problem. The cabin site is just off an access road in a recreation use-only area on Pine Lake.
Under Parks Canada rules that means no harvesting cabins allowed. On top of that, the Smith's Landing and Salt River First Nations say they were not properly consulted. The two groups held a meeting and decided to take the cabin down.
Grandejambe wasn't at the meeting.
"I had no formal paperwork. I had no invitation," he says.
"And so Parks Canada uses it as ammo now, says that 'you were not attendant to this meeting.' So they tear down my cabin while I'm out trapping on my traditional lands."
He says the cabin wouldn't interfere with anyone else who wants to use the area.
"They can use the hiking path while I'm there, it's just I only want a night, overnight access while I'm attending my traps. I'm not a hindrance to the two nations on the lake."
Parks Canada says it warned Grandejambe to stop work on the cabin.
"We tried to work with him," says Jonah Mitchell with Parks Canada.
"We started 18 months ago now almost... working with him on finding alternative locations that weren't on the Pine Lake shoreline. Mr. Grandejambe wasn't receptive to looking at any other locations."
Parks Canada says it's still willing to help Grandejambe find another location for his cabin.
Grandejambe says he's reaching out to the local First Nations to try and resolve the issue as soon as possible.