By Xavier Kataquapit
There is a lot of discussion about gun control these days. As an Indigenous person who was born and raised on the lands of the great James Bay, I know very well the role that hunting rifles and shotguns play in harvesting animals.
One of the first things I learned as a young boy was how to fire a gun as part of my education in learning the culture and traditions of my people in terms of harvesting moose, caribou, geese, ducks and other wild life.
Since the dawn of time my ancestors have been surviving on the land as hunter gatherers, and to a degree many Indigenous people still live this way of life. We have been hunting with firearms for less than a hundred years now and it has helped us in making it easier to harvest food to sustain our families.
However, in modern times we don’t have the same need to harvest in the way we did in the past. We have easier access to food and we don’t have to spend a lot of time hunting and gathering.
Many of us still like to follow our traditional and cultural ways, and hunting and gathering plays a big role in these pursuits. Indigenous and non-Indigenous hunters have for many years been harvesting more than we need and that has decimated numbers of animals and birds on our lands. We have government agencies charged with trying to ensure that we are careful, respectful and considerate with our harvesting practices. There are laws that try to control the number of animals and birds we can harvest and that is a good thing.
As humans we have a long history of abusing our harvesting and that is simply part of human nature, greed and being unaware that if we don’t respect the wildlife around us and take as much of it as possible there will be no traditional harvesting for our future generations.
Guns are a big part of the hunt with my Indigenous family and friends. Guns are part of our culture at this point but only when it comes to harvesting on the land, and for the most part we are respectful and careful on the hunt. There is currently a lot of confusion on many people’s part in dealing with the government of Canada’s desire to put in place a more restrictive gun control. If you really understand what that means you will realize that is not a terrible thing to do. There are many law abiding and responsible gun owners who belong to gun clubs and visit target ranges, but they have to pass testing and need to be licensed in this country.
As Canadians one of the biggest things that separates us from our American neighbours to the south of us is the fact that we do not allow the sale of all kinds of firearms without much restriction as to who can purchase a gun. The United States has a very different culture when it comes to guns in society. There are so many guns in the United States and that has led to a very violent society in which many thousands of people are killed with guns every year. Just about anyone can purchase a military style assault weapon in the United States and I think most of us realize that does not make good sense.
It is estimated that the U.S. has one gun or more for every citizen in the country. Or more simply put, there are more guns than people in the United States. No other nation in the world has that many guns. It’s estimated that more than 50 people every day are killed by a firearm in the U.S.
The new gun control restrictions in Canada don’t really penalize hunters or farmers who use firearms designed for harvesting. These new restrictions are designed to deal mainly with military style assault rifles and guns that are more than what is needed to harvest an animal or bird on the land. I don’t understand why any hunter would need a gun or assault rifle with multiple rounds to hunt. If a hunter needs an assault type multiple round gun to hunt, then I think that is overkill and even dangerous.
I am all for keeping our rights as hunters and gatherers to own decent guns that will do the job, but the right wing interests in this country and in the U.S. is lobbied to a great degree by the gun and armament companies to defeat any idea of controlling dangerous military style assault guns. They do this mostly because of the vast amount of money this industry represents, but also as a means to sneak in a drive to have right wing, more fascist prone governments in place. Many of us are being sucked in by this issue and we should be aware that if we jump on that right wing anti-gun control wagon it could take us to a dangerous place.
As Canadians, we are more reasonable, aware and respectful of the role guns should play in our society. We are not the wild west ... we are Canadians.