A traditional moose hunt camp was held by the Temiskaming Native Women’s Support Group (TNWSG) near Matachewan First Nation in Northeastern Ontario form Oct. 4 to Oct. 6. The event brought together First Nation hunters, Elders and families from the First Nations of Matachewan, Beaverhouse, members of the Metis Nation and invited guests.
They came together for the event with community members and their families as part of a three-day hunt camp dedicated to sharing the teachings of Elders involving traditional moose harvesting on the land.
Community volunteers including Matachewan First Nation Chief Jason Batisse, local First Nation councillors and hunters gathered at a central camp dotted canvas tents to bring together people in cooking, harvesting and socializing environments.
“This was the first time ever that we have run the traditional moose hunt camp and it has been such a success that already we are looking at partnering with Matachewan First Nation and other possible sponsors to make this an annual event,” said Anne Batisse, executive director of TNWSG
“My thanks to all of our members of the TNWSG that worked so hard to make this happen. We are also grateful to Chief Batisse, his son Anthony and wife Samantha for all of their help and for harvesting a moose,” commented.
Melissa Gill of the TNWSG assisted with organizing the event with help from many volunteers and the chief and council of Matachewan First Nations.
“I want to thank our leadership and Elders for having the vision to establish our first ever traditional moose hunt camp. It takes a lot of expertise, skill and knowledge to set up and run a hunt camp like this, that is based on respect for the land and sharing the tradition and culture related to moose harvesting,” said Gill.
The event featured teachings and demonstrations in respect of the hunt, setting up camp, preparing for the hunt, tracking the moose, moose calling, harvesting a moose and skinning and butchering the animal. Elder Mario Batisse of Matachewan First Nation who is also a traditional hunter, with help from Chief Jason Batisse and William Edwards, a traditional Cree Elder and hunter originally from Fort Albany, led everyone in hands-on participation in skinning the moose and butchering it to be shared.
“I feel so good to be here today and surrounded by several generations participating in the traditional moose hunt on our lands,” said Elder Mario Batisse. “I thank all of the Elders, the families and in particular the children who came to join us for this hunt camp so that they can learn about our connection to the land and respect for all of the animals, as well as the harvesting and preparation skills needed to provide for a good hunt.”
Elders Vina Hendrix, Jeanette Gilbert and Gertie Nolan were on hand to assist with moose hunt teachings to share their knowledge of the land, the ceremony and language. James Bay Cree Elders Margaret Chookomolin and Marie Sackaney assisted with food preparation and teachings.
“I grew up on the land and our family lived in tents and small buildings on the land much the same as our ancestors did. Our survival as a people depended on our relationship to the land, the animals and the fish and we always had respect and made offerings when we harvested any of these for food,” explained Elder Hendrix.
Elder Nolan commented that it made her feel very nostalgic to be part of this gathering as she remembered the people meeting up on the land to hunt many years ago.
“I think we need to see this event run every year because it brings us all together in a good way to give thanks to the Creator, the land and the animals for our survival. Everyone has been so helpful to the Elders and it is great to be out here with the hunters and the children as culture and tradition is shared,” said Nolan.
Elder Gilbert, who is with a campus of Northern College in Kirkland Lake, pointed out that Indigenous people have always had a culture and tradition based on gatherings many times over the year.
“We need to do more work to make sure our traditions and culture are passed on to future generations and I know that gatherings such as this moose hunt camp will ensure that our young people do not lose the skills and knowledge of our ancestors,” Gilbert said “These gatherings and teachings serve to ground our youth to assist them on their journeys.”
Much of the event was centred around the fire where stories were told and an historic reunion of the Batisse brothers music group happened with performances by David, Mario and Sonny Batisse.
“I think it’s been more than 20 or 25 years since we played guitar and sang together. I feel very blessed tonight as I sit here playing the tunes we loved so many years ago. I thank my brothers Mario and Sonny for joining me here at the campfire to make everyone feel welcome and to entertain our people,” said David.
Sonny, who is a well-known musician, has played with an award-winning Native band in Nashville and continues to perform locally.
“This night was a good time and a lot of fun. I can’t believe the three of us managed to get together here at this camp to play our tunes here around the fire, and I know how important music is too all of us as it is healing and uplifting,” Sonny said.
A feast was hosted by Matachewan First Nation at the Ann Batisse Community Complex. It featured a moose supper with all the trimmings by Adam Gilbert of Matachewan First Nation.