Photos

Mixed emotions for Labrador Inuit 5 years into caribou hunting ban

Labrador Inuit share their thoughts on what the last five years have been like not being able to hunt the George River caribou herd.

Scientists say there are fewer than 9,000 George River caribou left

Allan Vincent says tens of thousands of George River caribou migrated to the Hopedale area in the late 1980s. He said it looked as if the hills were moving. (John Gaudi/CBC )

The George River caribou hunting ban brings out a mix of emotions for Labrador Inuit.

Beneficiaries haven't been able to practise an important part of their culture for five years. Many people deeply miss eating caribou in a region where buying food comes at a great expense. 

The province banned the hunting of George River caribou in 2013 after census numbers showed a steep decline in the herd. It numbered some 800,000 animals in the early 1990s.

Scientists say there are fewer than 9,000 George River caribou left.  

Five years on, and Labrador's Indigenous people continue to cope with a ban on hunting caribou. CBC reporter John Gaudi explores the impact on North Coast communities in his documentary Caribou Land. 15:32

But there's another side to this story. 

Some Labrador Inuit say they respect the ban in hopes of conserving the herd for future generations. Others aren't as optimistic, and want to hunt the herd before — as they believe will happen — it disappears altogether.

Most would agree the future of the George River caribou herd is uncertain.

Here are photos of Labrador Inuit reflecting on life before and after the ban. 

Allan Vincent tells his 15-year-old son Allan Jr. about hunting for the first time as a teenager with his father. He said going on the hunt is a bond shared between father and son. Given the low number of George River caribou, Vincent doubts he'll be able to hunt caribou with his son, much less go on a hunt again in his lifetime. (John Gaudi/CBC)
Andrea Flowers, 83, who moved to Hopedale from Makkovik in 1952, says hunters used to get caribou by dog teams in earlier days. She says they only hunted what they needed, but sometimes they returned empty-handed because they couldn't find caribou. (John Gaudi/CBC)
It's barren now, but about 60 to 100 George River caribou were spotted in this area just outside of Nain in December. (John Gaudi/CBC)
While out partridge hunting, David Dicker, 30, spotted caribou on the third freshwater pond outside of Nain last month. He said it made him feel good to see the 60 to 100 animals in the area. He says he respects the ban so that future generations will have caribou. (John Gaudi/CBC)
In the late 1980s, Allan Vincent says George River caribou stayed on the ice just outside of Hopedale. When travelling by snowmobile, he said he had to wait for the caribou to make way from him to pass through the herd. (John Gaudi/CBC)
Sarah Leo was president of the Nunatsiavut government when the hunting ban started in 2013. The Labrador Inuit government asked beneficiaries to stop hunting the herd shortly before the ban was introduced. She says there can be caribou for future generations with the right conservation practices in place. (John Gaudi/CBC)
Allan Vincent says it's barren around Hopedale now without the tens of thousands of George River caribou that used to migrate to the area in the late 1980s. He says even wolves that hunted the caribou aren't seen in the area as much anymore. (John Gaudi/CBC )
In the late 1980s, Hopedale residents used to be able to look out their windows to see thousands of George River caribou out on the frozen bay. The herd came and went for about three years, heading to their calving grounds each spring. (John Gaudi/CBC )

About the Author

John Gaudi

CBC reporter

John Gaudi reports from Happy Valley-Goose Bay for CBC's Labrador Morning.