What's Behind That Schefferville Protest


Published: August - 2008

So, what was behind that mess in Schefferville this past September that interrupted so many caribou hunts? The basic facts are pretty straightforward. Seems a local tribe of Indians, the Innus of Matimekosh Lake John, blocked road access to Squaw Lake, the main floatplane base in the Schefferville area. Subscriber Glen Smith was there when it happened, and he says the tribe set up concrete blocks across the road, erected teepees, tents and other temporary dwellings, and even had a bulldozer on hand to stop approaching vehicles. Smith says there were rumors that some individuals threatened to burn down the outfitters' facilities at Squaw Lake.

For a while there, hunters could not get in or out of Schefferville. The crisis lead to numerous hunt cancellations, lost hunting time for some clients and increased costs for outfitters. As this is written in mid-October, the situation has not been fully resolved, and many people are predicting hard times for some operators in the near future.

The reason the Innus gave for their actions was alleged illegal outfitting in the area and the impact of bush plane flights on caribou migrations in tribal hunting areas. No one challenges the notion that there is some illegal hunting in the Schefferville area by fly-by-nighters and/or residents. However, no one I talked to about the ongoing conflict thinks this is the real problem.

As anyone who has hunted caribou in the Schefferville area of Quebec knows, migrations in this region fluctuate. Also, the herd we're talking about is the George River herd, which crashed about five years ago. That has meant there are fewer animals around for everyone, including subsistence hunters and outfitters.

But fewer animals is not the real problem either, according to many observers I spoke with. Subsistence hunting is merely the tip of an iceberg of social issues involving native peoples in Schefferville. In other words, the recent protest was merely a way of bringing government attention to other demands. That could explain why the tribe ignored the efforts of........(continued)

 
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