A cousin once told me he didn’t fear encounters with bears while out picking berries. He said he would just talk in our language, Gitxsanimx, to them and they would leave him alone. The reason, he said, that they would do this is because our people and local bears have lived alongside each other for so long that bears have gotten used to the sound of our language spoken.
He wasn’t saying the bears understood our language, though who knows, maybe they do. He was saying that a relationship built up over thousands of years between our people and the bear people was what was needed to maintain peace and respect for each other.
I can’t help but reflect on the difference between this approach and the approach offered by the “managers” of wildlife, the provincial authorities, who say it is okay to hunt our bear relations for sport, for the thrill of killing another sentient creature.
From a Gitxsan traditional perspective, the provincial Grizzly hunt is wrong on at least two accounts. First, the hunt denies the relationship between human and bear, setting one up as “superior” and in the right to kill purely for the pleasure, the trill of killing one’s relations. And second, this kind of hunt reduces everything else “not human” as secondary, an object, something that may be impacted by humans without regard for personal or societal consequences. There may be other reasons I have not thought of yet.
Don’t hunt for pleasure or for profit. Don’t hunt because it makes you feel superior to those you hunt. And when you do hunt, remember you are killing your relation; some of the matter that went into the creation of you also went into the creation of your prey. You and your prey are one, and so it is best not to deny the relationship. If you are successful (and if you are a good hunter you will be successful) then remember to give thanks to the brother or sister who gave their life to feed you and your families.
Russell Collier passed away on Nov. 23, 2013. This was posted Nov. 9, 2013 and shared by his wife Lori Koop for re-publication. Trophy hunting for grizzly bears in B.C. ends after this season.