Don’t Want a Traditional Deer Hunt? Then Start Returning Stolen Land

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Demonstrators Opposing the Traditional Haudenosaunee Deer Hunt at Short Hills 2013 Photo: Daniel Wilson

The controversy surrounding the Short Hills Deer Hunt is back in the news as settler hunters have been illegally hunting deers in the park in advance of the legal Traditional Haudenosaunee Hunt. They have been leaving the deer carcasses strewn about as some form of grotesque protest.

Nearly a year since the first hunt, local papers have now at least referenced the treaty which establishes the right of the Haudenosaunee to hunt in this park – the Albany Deed of 1701. With the hunt set to resume in a few days though, this has not in any way stopped an array of settlers organizing and expressing their outrage.

Taken in a cultural context and compared across many different “outrages” amongst animal advocates in North America, the Short Hills Deer Hunt, and the core issues at play, begin to take shape. Almost every practice of animal use that the largely white dominated animal advocacy movement decries as “backwards,” “barbaric,” or “uncivilized” can be traced back to a scarcity created by our own dominant society.

For example, there is no shortage of animal advocates to decry the practice of dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. Few advocates though trace that practice back to the necessity that drove it – World War II and the devastation, death and destruction sewn by warfare and the dropping of two nuclear bombs by the United States.

A similar process is at play with outrage over the use of dogs in Korea – a practice resumed and heightened out of necessity during warfare.

The Haudenosaunee were known as an agricultural superpower prior to contact with settlers – focusing their efforts on growing the “three sisters” – corn, beans and squash. The women were the farmers, while the men cleared the brush. Their agricultural practices were tied to spiritual practice and are still practiced and considered sound agricultural use in opposition to dominant societies era of monocropping and GMO’s.

As settlers colonized the lands, erased and destroyed many coastal tribes, they encroached on this agricultural system with a European agricultural system that demanded growth. Their system demanded an excess of crops and land needed to feed imported captive domesticated farmed animals, pushing out and nearly destroying the centuries old Haudenosaunee agricultural industry. Hunting, and ensuring the rights of hunting, became a priority for any remaining tribes entering into any relationship with settlers as their agricultural lands were being taken away from them.

Forced onto reserves and with centuries of continued assimilation and genocidal policies, the necessity for traditional hunting rights remains as food scarcity on reserves continues and remaining traditional agricultural practices face new problems. 

All of these practices, from Japan to Korea to Short Hills are about autonomy. In each example a population is engaging in a practice that was either borne out of, or staunchly defended because of, a collapse of existing food systems and the introduction of scarcity. What is most absurd, is that the populations most responsible and who gain the most privilege from this lack of autonomy and food scarcity are the exact same ones who vocally express the outrage and indignation. Settler society brought domesticated farmed animals to this country 500 years ago, settler society disrupted and destroyed rich agricultural traditions that provided food security and have introduced mono cropping, GMO’s, mass deforestation and soil collapse. What authority then do settlers have to express outrage and shock at a traditional Haudenosaunee Deer Hunt?

I’ve gained heretic status in the animal advocacy movement for being critical of other animal advocates in this way – with many assuming a “colour blind” and post racial stance that no culture or tradition should excuse or legitimize any animal use. What ALL who express this reasoning fail to realize is that by simply not eating or wearing other animal species you are not removed from the same cultural practices of our dominant society – mass industrialization, mass resource extraction, species collapse and environmental destruction. Fracking, the Tar Sands, sludge facilities, sprawl – all of these industries are industries which the Haudenosaunee Confedracy Council opposes on the basis of destruction of habitat and wildlife. All of these industries have a disastrous effect on wildlife, and similarly the animal advocacy movement is near silent on all of them. How can this be?

Movements and their goals will reflect what is the easiest and most achievable goals of their members and similarly they will find most repugnant the things which are most foreign or avoidable for them. For the mainstream animal advocacy movement this means a movement obsessed with consumerism that ignores large scale environmental destruction and fixates on animal use of the “other.” If the goal is to increase the sale of vegan products to a white middle/upper class and privileged population – then this is a solid strategy. If the goal is to liberate other animal species from human society, or even to obtain some form of “rights” for other animal species, it is entirely useless. We need to demand better and be extremely critical of the near silence on issues of wilderness, wilderness defence, and environmental collapse – and even more critical and suspicious of whiteness, settler colonialism and how our focus so frequently seems to be on practices that our own power and privilege largely create and sustain.

In the case of Short Hills – if people want to a see an end to Traditional Deer Hunting they should put their focus in standing in solidarity with the Haudenosaunee as they oppose environmentally destructive policies and call for a return of traditional and treatied lands that would be capable of providing the Haudenosaunee with the resources, capacity and autonomy needed to return and rebuild their agricultural industry.

Tracing the root of the problem may be complex and confusing for many settler animal advocates, but at least it provides some kind of framework for being part of an actual solution.

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8 responses to “Don’t Want a Traditional Deer Hunt? Then Start Returning Stolen Land

  1. I have a hard time believing that the Haudenosaunee are shooting deer and leaving their carcasses behind. this sounds more like someone who is against the Haudenosaunee having an annual harvest of deer, As an avid hunter and have been since a child , I have been to many places where “Sport” hunters have shot deer in various locations and have left behind everything , all in the name of “Sport” which is not how I was raised or will ever promote. All I ask is to please investigate the facts before putting the blame on the Haudenosaunee .

  2. I have to take issue with comparing what happens in Taiji to a traditional deer hunt. Aside from the fact Japan hasn’t been on a wartime footing in decades, and in fact have prospered considerably in the wake of war, dolphin are endangered species, and deer are absolutely not.

    Also if memory serves the last Haudenosaunee deer hunt resulted in, what, four deer being killed? There are millions of deer, too many, in fact, on the North American continent, due to natural predators being almost wiped out, and weird things like people who think it’s okay to chomp into a McDonald’s burger but heaven forfend you go hunting.
    The huge number of deer are bad for the deer themselves. Dolphins are, again, absolutely not in the category, and the Japanese are fully aware of this. They can’t defend their actions with tradition or necessity.

  3. Please re-read that intro.

    “The controversy surrounding the Short Hills Deer Hunt is back in the news as settler hunters have been illegally hunting deers in the park in advance of the legal Traditional Haudenosaunee Hunt. They have been leaving the deer carcasses strewn about as some form of grotesque protest.”

    The issue is that settler hunters who cannot legally hunt in the park have been showing their displeasure by illegally hunting there anyways and dumping carcasses.

  4. Piro, the crux is that we cannot understand these issues (or the response from those who engage in animal use) unless we trace them back across a cultural context and how they relate back to scarcity.

    This is why many advocates on that particular issue now contend that there will be no change in Japan until it is led by the Japanese themselves (as all efforts by foreigners will be seen as imperialism).

  5. Not only does the Albany Treaty of 1701 address the issue of Hunting rights but also so do the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760, 1761 and the Royal Proclamation of 1763. These treaties were reaffirmed by the Supreme Court when challenged in 1999.

  6. Funny how you can fatten up cows and chicken to eat but they all against wild game. Haha these people are pathetic. The haudenosaunee been hunting deer from way back before the damn settlers even came around and they brought their pathetic animals. So they dont have no say in anything. Should be protesting locking up animals and making them fat just to eat them lol.

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