Animals

by Harold Macdonald

 

Native Ministry

Essays

St Mary's First Nation

Harold MacdonaldThe animals of Canada should march on Ottawa. Packs of wolves, foxes, coyotes, and black bears. Polar bears should lead the parade. Chipmunks, squirrels and hosts of little animals should scurry to the capital. They should be accompanied by fowls of the air, owls, raptores, the ever- resent crow, the gull, the goose the duck, the magpie, the much celebrated robin red breast and the winter birds like nuthatches whose natural view of things is up-side-down, an advantage in going to the nationís capital.

The march would be in the interests of the aboriginal people and, moreover, in the essential interests of Canada.

For animals are fast being transformed into products; more than humans, they have become commodities. Chickens never see the light of day. They live their boring, tasteless, lives in large impersonal sheds of tens of thousands. The intelligent pigs suffer the same fate. And they taste like it. Their meat lacks the tang of the out-of-doors, the farmyard fragrances. Animals which do not easily convert to mass production, like bears, have  been deemed expendable.

With them go the trap lines, the open spaces of Canada, the culture of snow and ice, winter and summer, fall and spring. With their disappearance, goes also the culture of the aboriginal people; the hunters and fishers, the trappers and the lovers of the out-of-doors.

Thatís the point, you see. The Indian way of life, condensed into reserves, depends on animals in the wild. By tacitly concurring in the extinction of the animals we are also saying that the Aboriginal peoples had better get on board; learn the ways of our culture; get into the real world of mass produced pork, and chicken and fish. Itís a twenty-first century version of the Indian Residential School, which was openly dedicated to eliminating the aboriginal culture and language; replacing them with the so-called culture of the white society. Weíre still doing it.

With the disappearance of the Indian way of life, we also say goodbye to the hinterland of Canada. The sequence goes like this: get rid of the animals; that gets rid of the Aboriginal culture; that gets rid of an "uncivilized" way of life. That makes way for resource development, for roads, fences, vehicles, pollution, and all other forms of "development"; and the destruction of the great natural habitat which we call the Canadian North. Neither strong nor free.

Pet an animal. Look at the picture of the wild ones on your 2005 calendar. Their extinction is being celebrated. Donít be fooled. They hold the key to Canada in their jaws.