SASKATOON — Conservation officers of the Ministry of Environment raided the home of Doug Morningchild and his family last year, accusing them of having wild meat acquired on private land.
Morningchild recounted the incident on Friday, March 24, calling for a public apology from the Ministry and the officers involved.
Morningchild, a residential school survivor, was joined by his wife Flora, his sister Gail Takakenew, and Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Fourth Vice Chief Heather Bear at the press conference.
“I want a public apology. Absolutely and that is why I am here for. [But], I was telling my wife, I don’t think this thing is going to go very far and try and sue anybody from the [provincial] government,” said Morningchild.
“All the officers that they will be collaborating and will deny being there. But I know that nearly 20 officers and the same number of trucks were around our place. I should have done what my sister did and taken pictures.”
Morningchild, now an elder who cares for the program in his reserve, said he and his wife had lived off the land as much as possible since they had been together, looking for animals like rabbits, moose, and deer.
The incident occurred at their home in Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation in Loon Lake, 61 kilometres west of Meadow Lake, and under Treaty 8 in Northern Saskatchewan, signed in 1899.
Treated like criminals
Conservation officers raided the home of the Morningchilds, who were preparing for a ceremonial gathering, on suspicion of hiding illegal meat.
The officers' vehicles, with flashing lights, surrounded their house, and they began searching their premises.
According to Morningchild, who had just finished checking his rabbit snares, they were over 15 or 20 officers.
“I said I was just out checking my [rabbit] snares,” said Morningchild. “They started searching supposedly for meat that I was supposed to have been hiding from them. The moose I killed up north in my place on that day.”
Morningchild said they felt like criminals hiding drugs or other illegal items and were ashamed as they saw cars passing by their house slow down to check what was happening.
The officers' boss, Beth Kelly, told Morningchild they had to search his place and had officers assist her. However, Morningchild refused until he saw the search warrant.
“I just need to see the search warrant. They told me that it was in the office and they would bring it tomorrow. Then they piled in, and she [Flora] was sick with COVID. She was telling them to get out and they ignored her,” said Morningchild.
The conservation officers confiscated all the wild meat from their freezers, one large and three smaller ones. The Morningchilds stated that they use the meat for ceremonial purposes and other animal parts for traditional medicine.
Justice system against Indigenous People
Morningchild, an Indigenous person, has accused the justice system in the country of being against his people and preventing them from practicing their inherent rights as original settlers of the land.
"The justice system was not made for us Natives. We are the ones that get charged for the things we do. We are criminals in our country for doing little things like trying to retrieve something we had shot," he said.
Morningchild's remarks were prompted by an incident where conservation officers raided his home on suspicion of illegally possessing moose meat.
Morningchild attended court proceedings on Jan. 26, where the charges were dismissed on a technicality.
Despite the charges being dropped, the FSIN Fourth Vice Chief Bear wants the provincial government to investigate the incident and investigate the individuals who raided the Morningchilds' home.