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John H. Cardinal

For John, hunting is about spirituality as much as it is sustenance. 

“I grew up at Big Point, east of Fort Chipewyan,” John said, reflecting on his early years. “But I met a lady here in Conklin years ago, so I’ve been down here since 1990. I’m Metis, and acknowledge that I’m on Treaty 8 territory, home of the Cree-Dene, unceded territory of the Metis Nation.

“I work for a living, I’m like anyone else. But I love hunting, living off the land. I only hunt the big game during the fall and wintertime – deer in the fall, moose in winter.”

John approaches hunting with a deep reverence, always careful to count his blessings and wait for signs.

It’s a spiritual process, everyday. It’s my lifestyle. Even if I don’t go out to hunt, I’ll put down tobacco and smudge, every day. But when it’s time for me to kill a moose, I’ll be told. I’ll get woken up, I’ll go out there into the bush and the moose will be waiting for me.”

While on the hunt, John prefers the use of natural tools to help draw in his bounty.

“I use a horn made of birchbark to call out to the animals. And I use antlers or sometimes the shoulder blade of a moose to make noise and draw them out. You can take the antler or the shoulder blade and rub or knock them together, rake them along the trees to make a noise. It sounds like a couple moose sparring, so it can sometimes attract a real one to the area.

“And when I’m out there I’ll forage natural herbs, medicines from the bush. When I’m moose hunting, I’ll usually pick sweetgrass and use that to smudge with. An elder once told me that no animal in this world eats sweetgrass, that it was given to us by the Creator.”

Living in Conklin, John prefers to hunt along the Christina River. “I like hunting around lakes and rivers, in general. The bull moose don’t stop to eat as much during rut, but they do drink a lot of water. So you’ll usually have good luck finding them out there along the lakes and rivers.”

Overall, John credits his spirituality and the profound connection to nature he feels for keeping him on the right path in life.

I’m a residential school survivor. It’s a terrible thing to have lived through, but I don’t drown my sorrows with drugs or alcohol or stuff like that. I follow the path of the Creator and I’m sending a message to anyone who’s struggling: whatever you’re going through, there are other ways to get through it. Don’t rely on that bad stuff.”

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