The Mohawks of Kahnawake on Montreal’s South Shore have called on Cree trappers to help them grapple with an overpopulation of beavers that is wreaking havoc on the community.
“They’ve been a nuisance, chopping down trees,” said Mohawk Council chief Robert Patton. He said the beavers’ dam-building habits have caused floods and blocked roadways.
The Mohawks were key players in Canada’s fur trade, but the descendants of those early trappers and merchants have lost their trapping skills. So the Mohawk Council called on the more experienced Cree from Waskaganish on the southern tip of James Bay.
Isn’t this touching? Native peoples working together to kill native animals? A chance to teach the young ones the old ways. (Of course when the old ways were in their heyday there were millions more beavers to go around. That is, until those HBC folks started coming and paying us per skin and we found out about alcohol and things got a little crazy.) But that’s blood under the bridge. Now we just do it to help our friends.
And make some slippers.
Three Cree trappers drove the 1100 kilometres from Waskaganish to Kahnwake late last week to lead a four-day hunting blitz, culling dozens of beavers. Gordon Weistche, a Cree trapper, was happy to share his knowledge with his Mohawk students on his first trip to Kahnawake.
“We set traps along their routes, there’s routes under the water,” he said. Once caught, the beavers were skinned, boiled and made into a meal.”
Never mind that beavers left in the stream would create more habitat for trout and game animals and raise the water table and purify the water and give the Mohawk more to celebrate. Never mind that beaver dams would filter some of the arsenic and mercury in their water and slow down some of the toxicity of the area. Never mind that understanding the Cree and Mohawk idea of wasting nothing means not wasting the talents of the best ecological engineer Nature ever provided.
Don’t think that the Minister of the Environment isn’t sitting happily back in his green leather chair brushing his palms together and chuckling. When one problem takes care of another problem, bureaucrats are always happy. They wanted a cull anyway, it’s their favorite solution for beavers, deer and rabbits. But all those PETA folks make it damn tricky to sneak it past the voters. If they can wrap the whole thing up in a moccasin and get some elder to chant over it they can do what they wanted all along!
And that, ladies and gentleman, is the using-Natives version of what I like to call “The Velvet Brick“.