Jim Taylor: Four tribes of Abenaki do not support the anti-trapping movement
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This commentary is by Jim Taylor of the Elnu Abenaki Tribal Council, based in Jamaica, Vermont.
I feel it is important to offer some clarifications on Rohit Sharma’s commentary May 19.
In Massachusetts, the beaver population may have already been rising, but it doubled again in the six years following the institution of prohibitions on avocational trapping.
The other significant increase was the increase in costs to towns and property owners for dealing with more beaver problems, and having to pay businesses to do the work.
The law didn’t save beavers, it just made them more expensive to live around and to kill. They are still taken with the same traps, but they are generally discarded, as it is now industry-based rather than being supported by the lifestyle of the trapping community that utilized their harvests.
Mr. Sharma goes on to note twice that “the number (of beaver) doubled in three years when trapping was still legal.” In this, he concedes that trapping does not pose a landscape-scale harm to beavers, and I wholeheartedly agree. Therefore, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department must provide access to that resource for those of us who wish to utilize it.
The fact that a handful of incessant naysayers wish to eradicate the lifestyle of other Vermonters should be irrelevant in this conversation.
His use of kilometers to describe how closely beaver families can live is entertaining, but since we tend to understand concepts of distance better in miles, here is an important note. A beaver family every 0.4 to 1.4 km would be every quarter-mile to three-quarters of a mile. I ask the reader, would that be detrimental to the state of Vermont and its infrastructure? How would that level of slack water impact mosquito populations?
He goes on to note that there are other mechanisms for gathering biological data, and that is absolutely true. Road kills are certainly a source of biological data, but they are a significantly smaller cross-section of a population, and they are unreliable.
The best data sets come from better sample sizes, which trappers are able to provide, and they can do so reliably. If there are questions about a population in a certain area, trapping is a targeted tool to help biologists seek those answers.
On the food and fur question, it is frankly quite insulting for Mr. Sharma to decide he has the right to determine the diet and materials that other Vermonters choose to use. Frankly, the simple answer on that is that it’s none of his business, nor is it anybody else’s business, if somebody enjoys barbecued beaver as much as they enjoy pulled pork.
Neither he, nor anyone else, has the right, and they should not have the audacity, to state that because they dislike trapping, their neighbors shouldn’t be able to source their own food from the landscape. Not only is it the height of arrogance, it is also a direct conflict with our constitutional right to hunt and fish and, more importantly, our tribal sovereignty rights as Indigenous people to live in a traditional relationship with the land.
Ultimately, this outcry against trapping has no basis beyond the fact that a handful of activists have decided they hate trappers and want to end trapping.
Finally, for those who missed it, I want to point out the subtle dig Mr. Sharma enjoyed by referencing Costa Rica and stating that the Fish & Wildlife Department might be racially biased. Mr. Sharma may not be aware, but trapping is a part of the heritage of the Abenaki people, who were here long before he was. Nulhegan translates to “land of the fish traps.” So while Mr. Sharma questions the racial bias of the department, I question his racial bias against the Abenaki people.
While we are on the topic of arrogance and presumptions, I would also point out that there are four tribes of Abenaki who do not support the anti-trapping movement, and their voices need to be taken into account over some other Indigenous person who is not from Vermont and does not, nor should, speak for the Indigenous people, the Abenaki of Vermont.
Do not presume to dictate how others may pursue a satisfying life. Our free will does not end where your ire begins.Have something to say? Submit a commentary here.
Read the story on VTDigger here: Jim Taylor: Four tribes of Abenaki do not support the anti-trapping movement .