North

Emergency fund to help get more Cree hunters to bush camps

To help get as many hunters and their families out to bush camps as early as possible this spring, Cree officials have launched a $1.6 million emergency fund. 

$1.6 million extra funding to help with costs of travel, food

Alfred and Hattie Coonishish on their way to the family goose camp in the spring of 2019. The Cree Trappers' Association and Niskamoon have launched an emergency fund to help Cree hunters and families get to their camps this year and stay longer. (Submitted by Richard Coonishish)

To help get more hunters and their families out to bush camps in northern Quebec and away from COVID-19, Cree officials have launched a $1.6 million emergency fund. 

The Emergency Assistance Program for Cree Land Users is being made available as officials expect more families will want to head to their spring goose camps because schools and businesses are closed due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

"We felt there was going to be more people wanting to go out," said William MacLeod, Chairperson of Niskamoon Corporation, a body that oversees agreements between Hydro-Quebec and the Cree.

The organization also makes funds available to help Cree practise traditional activities. 

Niskamoon and the Cree Trappers' Association have organized the emergency fund.

Some [Cree workers] have been laid off, so do not have the necessary income for spring hunt.- William MacLeod, Chairperson of Niskamoon

The spring goose hunt is an annual tradition among Cree in northern Quebec, as families head out to hunt returning geese, usually in May.   

MacLeod said this year, it's expected families will also want to go to their camps earlier and stay longer. The money will go toward transportation to help get families to their camps, as well as to help people buy supplies for a longer period, according to MacLeod. 

Each spring Cree families in northern Quebec head to goose camps like this one to hunt returning geese. (Submitted by Roger Orr)

"Some [Cree workers] have been laid off, so do not have the necessary income for spring hunt because there are costs related to that," he said. 

The funding is on top of regular annual funding made available to help support traditional land use for the Cree. It will be administered through the local Cree Trappers' Association offices, according to MacLeod. 

Earlier this spring, the Cree Trappers' Association and the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay issued a joint statement asking hunters to abandon plans to hunt in the south this year over fears of COVID-19.

The fund is also meant to help those hunters stay in the North, according to Fred Tomatuk, president of the Cree Trappers' Association. 

The Cree Trappers' Association and Niskamoon are making the emergency fund available through the local trappers' associations's offices. (Aubmitted by Lawrence Paul Katapatuk)

"When you say no to something or you object to something, we always felt that we had to put something in place," said Tomatuk. 

"We're expecting more people to go to the bush at a real peak time."

Decisions about exactly how the money will be spent will be left up to the local trappers' associations offices. 

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