United they hunt
Metis Nation and Liidlii Kue combine efforts

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Feb 19/99) - Members of Fort Simpson's Metis Nation Local 52 and representatives of the Liidlii Kue First Nation joined forces last week to successfully procure plenty of caribou and moose meat for fellow members of each body.

Robert Villeneuve, who organized the community hunt, said the event set aside all political differences.

"I just thought we'd hunt for everybody, whoever's hungry," said Villeneuve. "It worked out perfect... They were good guys we had in the bush there. They really knew what they were doing as far as skinning and what parts the elders like and all that stuff."

The seven hunters -- Robert Villeneuve, his father Jim, his brother Randy, Bill Laferte, Peter Corneille, Ernest Michelle and William Michaud -- returned from the Rae Lakes area last Tuesday with 50 caribou and a couple of moose.

"For the skeleton crew we had, that's major work, lots of work," he said.

The crew spent four days in the wilderness, travelling by snowmobile and sleeping in tents at the north point of Sarah Lake, near Faber Lake.

Villeneuve said the hunters could have brought back even more meat if they had ample transportation.

"We didn't have that much room to haul it back. We only took as much as the trucks can handle."

Upon returning to Fort Simpson, Villeneuve spent the following days distributing the meat throughout the community.

He acknowledged that it's easier to hunt caribou than moose because caribou live in herds. However, there's still many important principles to keep in mind to get the best quality meat, he explained. First of all, it's imperative not to panic the animals, causing them to run. By shooting a fleeing, adrenaline-filled caribou, one is bound to wind up with tough meat, he said.

"And it makes (the meat) go bad faster," he added.

The older males and larger cows are the primary targets and the placement of the bullet is also a factor, according to Villeneuve.

He also added that the crew was extremely careful not to be wasteful.

"We'd only shoot as much that day as we could skin during that two-hour or three-hour period that it takes for them to freeze. You don't want to get all stiff in the hides or you won't be able to gut it or anything," he said.

Villeneuve said he hopes the trip set a precedent and it will become a combined effort between the Metis and the Dene from this point forward. Everyone who participated in the hunt seemed to enjoy it, he noted.

"It was nice to get back out on the land and sleep in a tent at 40 below," he said, laughing. "I hadn't done that in a while."