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Nathan Giede: Finding truth and reconciliation while hunting with a friend

The statutory holiday is simply utilized by an Indigenous man and a non-Indigenous man to complete the ancient rite of hunting as friends.
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Long before dawn, I am roused by instinct more than the alarm. With bleary eyes and fumbling hands, lunch is made, flannel donned, and feet shod. A rifle in a caliber dating back to my ancestors, purchased with the government’s long overdue sponsorship via CERB, is loaded into the back of a comrade's truck. We sip on instant coffee, driving north out of our extractive pioneer outpost masquerading as a liberal city on this newly minted statutory holiday. We are off to hunt elk.

Our conversation is as acrid as Sanka: inflation, wokeism, the trucker protest, looming global depression or conflict. We are in accord, canon, or harmony on nearly all topics, despite the differences in our creeds, heritage, and ages. If the dialectic of our time held any water, we would be at each other’s throats, incapable of communication. In reality, it is promoted by the big five banks on behalf of usurers to ensure the sin of compound interest is never questioned.

Private land gained by honor and trust is our hunting ground today. As we approach our destination, silence grows inside and outside the vehicle. We park, load rifles, and walk uphill, minding our footfalls on the wet terrain, the morning river mist muting forest textures. I keep to the jagermeister’s four or five o’clock: he is the veteran hunter and I am his apprentice. As we crown the first rise, his hand shoots up, and we both freeze. A potential target has been sighted.

The quadruped looks at us inquiringly. The forelegs, neck, and face are a dark rich chocolate, his body a yellow or tan ivory nearly matching the new fence post beside him. My instructor motions for me to stand close behind - we are to move in unison as if we are of the four-legged variety as well. With his arms raised as if we have antlers, our trojan stag moves forward slowly. Our prey is clearly confused and cannot commit to running away. We get closer.

Another hand motion stops us both. My comrade tries one of the many calls hanging around his neck, both self-sounded and human powered. The ungulate had taken a few steps away, but now the sound of his own species stops him - he turns back with broadside showing. It would be a perfect shot, but a whisper from the head of the pseudo-elk acknowledges that too few points are showing. This young male will make a fine prize in a year or two, but not today.

It should be noted that thanks to the blood quantum our government demands in order to be called a “Status Indian,” I would have been legally entitled to make that elk feel welcome at home in my freezer. But privileges become cudgels when not tempered by magnanimity as well as mercy. Enough was gained by learning: quality game calls actually do work; the hunting spot was fruitful with elk; and ancient camouflage methods work better than new money real-tree.

After trying each of the calls, we grew silent and let our quarry resume his vocation as a ghost of the woods, jogging off our path back into the forest. We took up our perches where the stag had stood, hoping for a bigger friend of his to emerge. While we waited, the old stock Canadian opened his pack in order to munch on some bannock while the aboriginal flicked a tin of chewing tobacco - a single annual indulgence by his marital vows - and placed a plug in his lip.

Rifles at the ready in the foggy dew, our whispers begin again. As the sun rises so does our conversation, turning to hopes for our future: a piece of land, promotion at work, leadership returning to city hall. Perhaps here the fewest agreements occur, for dreams are often particular to age, time, and place. The boomer wants the lottery, and the millennial just wants an allotment. But both are in good humor as the morning vapor clears.

A beautiful autumn day is now underway and we retire from the hunt. No mention of why a three day weekend exists. The statutory holiday is simply utilized by an Indigenous man and a non-Indigenous man to complete the ancient rite of hunting as friends.

Isn’t that living out truth and reconciliation?

Nathan Giede is a Prince George writer.

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