October is Mi’kmaq history month in Nova Scotia, and in an ironic twist, an unfortunate hunting trip has further illustrated the knowledge gap between the aboriginal and mainstream culture.
One of three known Albino ‘spirit moose’ was shot and killed by hunters in Nova Scotia in early October. The hunter’s error became known when they brought it in to a local taxidermy shop to have its’ head mounted. Photos of the deceased animal and it’s hunters were then discovered on Facebook and the local Mi-kmaq natives were notified, and outraged.
“This is what we call a spirit animal,” said Clifford Paul, moose management co-ordinator for the Unamaki Institute of Natural Resources. Aboriginal communities have known about the moose for years, but refrained from killing it because white animals are considered sacred.
“We know the significance and we’ve been teaching that to the non-native population for almost 500 years — about the importance that this and other white animals played in our lives,” he said. ”We are not to harm them in any way, shape, or form because they could be one of our ancestors coming to remind us of something significant that’s going to happen within our communities.”
The Department of Natural Resources said white moose are rare but there are no laws against killing them.
The hunters who shot the moose didn’t know about the animal’s significance and agreed to hand over the hide for a traditional Mi’kmaq ceremony. And then, in a beautiful turn of events, the hunters agreed to participate in the ceremony.
Chief Bob Gloade, of the Millbrook First Nation, said: ‘We’ve received full cooperation from the hunters and, during the ceremonies, they’re actually willing to participate. It shows a willingness to cooperate and an ability to show respect to not only the Mi’kmaq people but also to the culture and history. To recognise the importance and significance to the Mi’kmaq people is the next step moving forward and it’s a way of building better relationships between the aboriginal and non-aboriginal community.’
The four day ceremony was lead by a Mi’kmaq elder who holds sweat lodge rituals and teaches native culture in the area.
There were three known white moose in Nova Scotia. One became sick and was put down by the Department of Natural Resources and the second was this, killed by the hunters. Local elders believe that third (pictured) remains alive in the woods.