Indigenous fur harvesters speak out
Indigenous fur harvesters are exercising an inherent right. Photo: Karen Dunstan; Artwork: Internet Archive Book Images.

The following statement from the four signatories below was released to the media on Jan. 24, 2021.

“Harvesting and trading fur and other gifts of nature is our inherent right since ancient times, not a privilege to be bartered or revoked!” says Chief Brian Wadhams, trapper, of the ‘Namgis First Nations.

As Indigenous trappers and traditional trapline holders, we can no longer remain silent about self-appointed “animal rights” activists who think they have a right to spread lies about the fur trade and call on politicians to ban the production or sale of fur products.

The latest example of this vicious and misleading campaigning is a recent call by animal activists for the Canadian Government to ban mink farming, after mink on two BC farms tested positive for COVID-19. While mink farming is not a tradition in our culture, we oppose this attack on small family-run farms and on rural communities where the majority of Indigenous harvesters live. And we are not naïve: we understand that this attack on mink farming is just the latest weapon in an orchestrated plan to turn the public against any use of fur – a campaign that directly attacks our culture and inherent rights as Indigenous peoples of Canada. We call this for what it is: Cultural Genocide.

Indigenous fur harvesters Tom and Karen Dunstan
Karen Dunstan and her husband Bob, out on their trapline in British Columbia.

The fur trade played a central role in Canada’s history, and it’s an important part of our Cultural Identity; our people were harvesting and trading furs long before Europeans ever set foot on our eastern shores. The harvesting and sale of fur still provides income for many First Nations communities throughout Canada. Beavers, muskrats, and other furbearing animals also provide nutritious food for many hunters and their families. The respectful harvesting of fur and food from abundant wildlife populations is central to our relationship with the land – a relationship that the federal and provincial governments are legally mandated to protect.

Let us be crystal clear: the goal of animal activists – including those now calling for a ban on mink farming – is to destroy all markets for fur, to further their own ideological agenda. In doing so, they are directly attacking our right to responsibly harvest and trade nature’s gifts, which is our inherent right, a right recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada and by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

It is doubly unfortunate that animal activists seek to mislead the public and the government about fur at a time when Canadians seek to live in better harmony with nature. Furs are a sustainably produced, long-lasting, and biodegradable natural clothing material. It is the Honest Fabric. By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are generally made from petroleum, a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and polluting resource.

Indigenous people have respected and protected the survival of the animal populations upon which we depend since time immemorial. Our message today to self-appointed “animal rights” extremists and their celebrity cheerleaders is this: Your misguided attacks on the fur trade are not “progressive”; they are attacks on Indigenous people. Your uninformed and misguided lies must stop NOW! 

On the land in British Columbia
On the land in British Columbia’s Region 3. Photo: Karen Dunstan.

We take this opportunity to remind the Government of Canada, and their provincial and municipal counterparts, that fur trapping, trading, displaying and selling fur is our Inherent Right, not a privilege to be bartered or trifled with. You are responsible for protecting these rights!

Furthermore, governments cannot make any changes in policy or legislation concerning the responsible harvesting, production, displaying, selling or bartering of fur products without full consultation and consent from Indigenous people, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

We will no longer remain silent while self-appointed urban activists attack our cultural traditions and livelihoods.  It is time you showed some honesty, decency, and respect for Indigenous fur harvesters and our fur trade partners.

It’s time to take a stand. We call on all Canadians to say “No!” to the lies and cultural intolerance promoted by anti-fur groups. We ask you to support Indigenous harvesters, to support the responsible and sustainable use of nature’s gifts — and to buy and proudly wear Canadian Fur. 

Thank you.

Signed by Indigenous Fur Trappers & Supporters.

• Chief Roy Jones, Haida Gwaii First Nations.

• Chief Brian Wadhams, trapper, ‘Namgis First Nations.

• Karen Dunstan, Lytton First Nation member, trapper, and director of the BC Trappers Association.

• Thomas Sewid, Kwakwaka’wakw / Cree, Pacific Balance Marine Management.


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