Caribou meat important amid COVID planning at Hatchet Lake
- Brendan Mayer | January 20, 2021
Food security has been a challenge for the Hatchet Lake Denesuline First Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, but hunting has helped, says Chief Bart Tsannie.
The First Nation recently hired 10 people to participate in the caribou hunt.
“Our tradition is very strong in the north,” Tsannie said. “Our community relies on caribou meat. We do have a lot of respect for them because that's our main source of food. Our people go north and hunt. If you hunt, you don't slaughter, and you just bring back whatever you need. You get meat for the family. Not everybody has snowmobiles so that's the challenge. Our culture is still very strong.”
The First Nation, located on the southeast shore of Wollaston Lake, 700 km northeast of Prince Albert, is about 200 km south of the border with Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Hunters from Hatchet Lake recently traveled to Nunavut because of changes in caribou migration patterns and declining herd numbers in Saskatchewan and areas in the Northwest Territory, where they also previously hunted.
Tsannie says they are still planning to leave for their big annual hunt in March. The First Nation has also ordered packages of meat from outside the community for each household.
“We make sure we have enough food for our members,” Tsannie said. “It's very important. We are flying in groceries and we only have one store. The groceries are so expensive. It's very tough because we are in a remote area, but we manage. I have to lobby for more funding for our people. That’s our job as leaders.”
Hatchet Lake has been assisted during the pandemic by members of the Canadian Rangers, which are a part of the Armed Forces reserves that work in remote, isolated and coastal regions.
They have prepared and distributed food and care packages and helped disseminate health information at Hatchet Lake, Île à la Crosse and Fond du Lac.
“We utilize about 17 of them for our members,” Tsannie said. “They are doing a wonderful job.”
Tsannie said January 7 that Hatchet Lake had one active case of COVID-19. The community also formed a team to help with the response to the Coronavirus.
“These people are very active and are doing what they can during this pandemic,” Tsannie added. “It's not over yet.”
Community leaders and key staff members have met weekly with helping agencies since March, he said.
“The communication has been very good. We just help each other. We do what's best for the people and figure out how we can get food to our community.”