Stop Forcing Assimilation

I am a white settler animal advocate responding to the letter “Little tradition in deer hunt (Nov. 28, p.5).”

I support the Haudenosaunee right to hunt, which may seem contradictory to animal advocacy. Here’s my perspective.

It begins with colonialism. Settlers commonly believe that colonialism is a historical event that’s over now, but in reality, colonial powers continue to oppress Indigenous peoples (and others) in many ways. One of these ways is cultural assimilation, in which Indigenous peoples are forced or encouraged to ditch their beliefs and adapt to the mainstream culture instead. The result has been huge losses to Indigenous languages, cultures, and knowledge. Many Indigenous communities are resisting these forces by practicing cultural traditions and living according to cultural values. The Haudenosaunee hunt is an example of that resistance.

Animal advocacy needs to support human issues, which includes Indigenous resistance. Does this mean animal advocates can’t disagree with aspects of Indigenous cultures? Of course not. However, should that disagreement be expressed? I believe the ways anti-hunt activists are expressing disagreement is a reproduction of cultural assimilation. Additionally, consider the following difference: when non-Indigenous people eat meat, most animal activists try to have conversations with them. When Indigenous peoples obtain meat through hunting, activists are responding by trying to take away their rights.

The question isn’t “Should Indigenous hunting be allowed within animal advocacy?” The question is “Should animal advocates even have a say in what Indigenous peoples are allowed to do?” Disagreeing is one thing, but anti-hunt activists are encouraging colonial control over Indigenous lives.

Stephanie Piovesan
St. Catharines