North

N.W.T. chiefs deny meat wasting affecting caribou

Few aboriginal leaders in the Northwest Territories were willing to respond to accusations that meat wasting by aboriginal hunters is contributing to the alarming decline in caribou herds, but those who did say the allegations aren’t true.

Bad apples ‘spoiling it for everyone’ says Yellowknives Dene Chief Eddie Sangris

The chief of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and the Grand Chief of the Tlicho both say aboriginal hunters are not contributing to the declining caribou population by wasting meat, despite assertions to the contrary by a Métis hunter and conservationist from Fort Smith. 

Earl Evans has been hunting in the N.W.T. for decades. He's also the chair of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board.

Last week, he said meat wastage is one of the reasons the Bluenose East and Bathurst herds are declining at such an alarming rate, and estimated wastage contributes to between 25 and 30 per cent of the herds' decline.

A CBC reporter, Hilary Bird, seeking reaction from aboriginal communities, found many aboriginal leaders didn't want to talk about it.

Chiefs in Behchoko, Whati, Gameti and Deline refused to speak on the issue; others weren't immediately available to comment.

Tlicho Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus told the CBC "there is no wastage...not by Aboriginal hunters." Erasmus then refused to be interviewed.

Bad apples 'spoiling it for everyone'

Yellowknives Dene Chief Edward Sangris was one of the few chiefs willing to speak on the subject.

He says hunters aren't wasting enough meat to have a major effect on the herds' populations.

"There's always going to be some bad apples in the society," he says. "Those people have to be confronted and told to stop doing that because those few people are spoiling it for everyone. But we're talking about a drop in the bucket when it comes to the meat wastage and the decline of the caribou."

Sangris thinks the decline is most likely caused by industry encroaching on caribou habitats.

He feels this year's forest fire season has also contributed to the decline.

Sangris says fires consumed a lot of the Bathurst and Bluenose East habitats.

Meanwhile, Evans says he's received a variety of reactions to his comments — both good and bad.

He says it's an issue that needs to be addressed, whether people like it or not.

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