Standing his ground
Hunter fights to change laws

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 15/99) - A month ago, a Metis hunter intentionally broke the law when he shot a moose in Wood Buffalo National Park.

That morning, Kenny Hudson fired a shot from his 7-millimetre that echoed all the way from that frozen muskeg swamp to the plush offices of Parliament Hill.

He gutted, skinned and cut up the moose. He hung the ears over a willow branch for good luck and headed back to Fort Smith; leaving the quartered bull where he'd fallen.

That afternoon, he went to the park office and reported how he'd spent his morning. Park warden Adam Moreland read Hudson his rights and later seized his rifle, along with the knife and axe Hudson used to butcher the animal. The hunter later returned to the "scene of the crime," with a truckload of park officials following close behind.

What was once moose meat is now evidence, and Kenny Hudson still has not been charged with any crime.

Parks has no comment, the Metis Nation isn't talking either.

While the bureaucrats postulate and ponder their next move, Hudson's been busy in his furniture shop, turning spindles on his new lathe. He's also just returned from a successful caribou hunt near Rae Lakes, with his lifelong friend and hunting partner, Earl Evans.

The two Metis have been hunting together since they were kids, Evans said.

"We used to hunt chickadees together with slingshots," Evans recalled with a smile.

They've hunted and trapped together all over the Western Arctic, but they both can't hunt legally in Wood Buffalo National Park.

Well, Evans can, Hudson can't.

Evans is entitled to a hunting licence in WBNP because he is a Metis whose grandparents came to Fort Smith from just upriver and across the border in Fort Chipewyan, Alta.

"My dad's mother was a treaty Indian from Chip," Evans explained. "My wife was born and raised on a trapline in the park until she was 15 years old."

Wood Buffalo National Park was founded in 1922, and in 1926, Hudson said the government sought to enlarge the park to include the Fort Chipewyan area.

"They found that there were a lot of buffalo around the Chip area, so they went to Chip and talked to the people about extending the park," he explained.

The people of Fort Chipewyan were first reluctant to be swallowed up in the new park, Hudson said.

"They said, 'You're going to take away our rights, like you did to the people in Fort Smith, Salt River, Hay River and Resolution,'" he said. "They weren't going to let the same thing happen to them."

Without the support of the residents, Hudson said park officials were forced to make concessions on the Alberta side of the bison refuge.

"So, the park reluctantly agreed that those Metis people who were trapping in the park, and including some white people, were allowed to remain," he explained.

"When it's to their benefit, they can change the rules anytime they want."

The inconsistency in the law is where the flaws lie, Hudson said.

The law was made by white men, who drew a line in the sand and excluded everyone North of the line from hunting rights in the park, he said.

"I've been denied these rights to me for 30-plus years," he said. "It's kind of hard to take when my friends can hunt in the park and I can't. They have rights and I don't."

"A person can come here from Saskatchewan -- from Chipewyan, having never set foot in this country before and they can hunt in the park. My family dates back to the 1800s around here and I can't hunt there."

"There is something wrong with that kind of thinking," he fumed.

His hunting partner agrees the legislation should be changed.

"Of course the law has to be changed," he said. "Hunters are already so restricted here. We have the river on one side, half a mile south is the Alberta border and down the highway 22 miles is the park border."

"These guys have been here all their lives and they have nowhere to hunt," he said.

Evans said the staff at Parks could help the sensitive situation by hiring some local people who know the history, the land and the people who live here.

Growing up, Evans said the pair had a good relationship with the local park warden.

"When Kenny and I were 15 or 16, we used to hunt all over the park," Evans recalled. "(Park warden) Bill Nelson used to see Kenny with me hunting and Kenny carrying a gun."

"He knew Kenny's grandparents hunted in the park and he never bothered Kenny about a licence. (Nelson) grew up here and he knew the score," Evans continued. "He was one of the first Indians to work in the park. He got along good with everybody."

Over the past three weeks, Hudson has been in touch with the Congress of Aboriginal People, the Metis Nation, whom he says have offered their support, but he says he hunted alone and he's prepared to stand alone in defense of the act.

"I don't want to have to depend on someone else fighting for my rights, I have enough proof and I have the will at least, to take it beyond putting in an application, getting refused and going home to forget about it, like people have done for 70-something years."