Traditional Ways and Modern Ways
THUNDER BAY – ANISHINABEK – A dangerous bear that had to be shot at Camp Loon, an advanced training camp for Junior Canadian Rangers in the bush north of Geraldton, became part of the training for Junior Rangers who wanted to participate in it.
The bear was one of many attracted to the camp by the smells coming from the military field kitchen that was being used to feed the Junior Rangers, Canadian Rangers, and other military personnel at the camp. It was scared of several times with noise and lights.
But it returned and was discovered at night outside the field kitchen by two Canadian Rangers on bear watch.
“This was a young male in it’s prime,” said Captain Caryl Fletcher, the army officer commanding the Junior Rangers in northern Ontario. “They tried to scare it off but it stood its ground, acted aggressively, and made it clear it was not going to go away. The bear watch did what it had to do and took it down with a shotgun when it was only 20 feet from them.”
He said the army did not want to throw the bear’s body in a dumpster. “I asked the (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) if we could keep the bear for training purposes and they said yes.”
Before it was skinned by a soldier and a Canadian Ranger a prayer was said over the animal. A Canadian Ranger smudged it and several Rangers and Junior Rangers offered the bear tobacco. Several Junior Rangers then assisted a Ranger and a soldier in skinning the animal. It was butchered by a soldier who was a butcher before joing the Canadian Army.
Master Corporal Stanley Stephens, a Canadian Ranger from Constance Lake First Nation and the camp elder, said for many Aboriginal people the bear is a sacred animal.
“So it must be respected,” he said. “I’m happy. This bear was shown respect. It was a good thing for these Junior Rangers to see the bear offered tobacco. When we take something off the land, whether it’s an animal or a fish or bird, we offer tobacco to the Creator.”The meat is going to be put to use and the hide is going to be used. That is a good lesson for the Junior Rangers.”