Canada’s First Nations have been harvesting fur for 4,000 years. Artwork: Tom Sewid.

A fresh opportunity is coming soon for future designers to receive a holistic education on working with fur, against a backdrop of its cultural and historical importance to British Columbia’s Indigenous First Nations.

The Learning Hub of Education and Design School will be held in Alert Bay on the ‘Namgis Indigenous First Nations Traditional Territory of Vancouver Island. It’s a product of a partnership among BC’s First Nations, Pacific Balance Marine Management Inc., and Nanaimo-based FurCanada. The ultimate aim of this partnership is to re-establish sealing and the fur trade as an important player in the economy of BC, where commercial sealing ended in the early 1970s. The Learning Hub executive would like to thank the ‘Namgis First Nations for sponsoring this program.

Pacific Balance Marine Management Inc. is a First Nations group pushing for a license to sell pinniped products, including furs, human and pet food, and seal oil. FurCanada, which will organise the Learning Hub, is a fur manufacturing company in Nanaimo specialising in luxurious home décor, including blankets, pillows, floor coverings, garments, furniture and accessories. It is also known for its museum-quality taxidermy mounts.

FurCanada CEO and president Calvin Kania had hoped to welcome the inaugural batch of students this March, but Covid-19 has pushed the launch back to at least November. Once the green light is given to proceed, 25 students will engage in 10 days of intensive study, with all materials, tools, machinery, accommodation, meals, transportation, field trips and instructors covered by a nominal fee of $500 per head. Prior experience will not be a factor in the selection process, but prospective participants must demonstrate a genuine interest in learning about fur, including its history.

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“Harvesting and trading fur and other gifts of nature is our inherent right since ancient times, not a privilege to be bartered or revoked!”

As Indigenous trappers and traditional trapline holders, we can no longer remain silent about self-appointed “animal rights” activists who think they have a right to spread lies about the fur trade and call on politicians to ban the production or sale of fur products.

The latest example of this vicious and misleading campaigning is a recent call by animal activists for the Canadian Government to ban mink farming, after mink on two BC farms tested positive for COVID-19.  While mink farming is not a tradition in our culture, we oppose this attack on small family-run farms and on rural communities where the majority of Indigenous harvesters live.  And we are not naïve: we understand that this attack on mink farming is just the latest weapon in an orchestrated plan to turn the public against any use of fur – a campaign that directly attacks our culture and inherent rights as Indigenous First Nations peoples of Canada. We call this for what it is: Cultural Genocide.

The fur trade played a central role in Canada’s history, it’s the most important part of our Cultural Identity; our people were harvesting and trading furs long before Europeans ever set foot on our eastern shores. The harvesting and sale of fur still provides income for many First Nations communities throughout Canada. Beavers, muskrats, and other furbearing animals also provide nutritious food for many hunters and their families. The respectful harvesting of fur and food from abundant wildlife populations is central to our relationship with the land – a relationship that the federal and provincial governments are legally mandated to protect.

Let us be crystal clear: the goal of animal activists – including those now calling for a ban on mink farming –is to destroy all markets for fur, to further their own ideological agenda. In doing so, they are directly attacking our right to responsibly harvest and trade nature’s gifts, which is our inherent right, a right recognized by Supreme Court of Canada and by the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

It is doubly unfortunate that animal activists seek to mislead the public and the government about fur at a time when Canadians seek to live in better harmony with nature.  Furs are sustainably produced, long-lasting, and biodegradable, natural clothing material. It is the Honest Fabric.  By contrast, the fake furs and other synthetics promoted by animal activists are generally made from petroleum, a non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and polluting resource.

Indigenous people have respected and protected the survival of the animal populations upon which we depend since time immemorial. Our message today to self-appointed “animal rights” extremists and their celebrity cheerleaders is this: Your misguided attacks on the fur trade are not “progressive”; they are attacks on indigenous people. Your uninformed and misguided truths must stop NOW! 

We take this opportunity to remind the Government of Canada, and their provincial and municipal counterparts, that fur trapping, trading, displaying and selling fur is our Inherent Right, not a privilege to be bartered or trifled with. You are responsible for protecting these rights!

Furthermore, you cannot make any changes in policy or legislation concerning the responsible harvesting, production, displaying, selling or bartering fur products without full consultation and consent from Indigenous people, as the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

We will no longer remain silent while self-appointed urban activists attack our cultural traditions and livelihoods.  It is time you showed some respect for Indigenous fur harvesters and our fur trade partners.

We call on all Canadians to say “No!” to the lies and cultural discrimination and “No” to Intolerance from the anti-fur groups.  It’s time to take a stand.   Fur trappers of the Coast Salish, Haida, Cree, Metis, Dene, Inuit to name a few, come from Indigenous Communities across Canada.

We ask Canadians to support Indigenous fur trappers / harvesters by buying and wearing Canadian Fur. 

Thank you.

Signed by Indigenous Fur Trappers & Supporters.

– Chief Roy Jones – Haida Gwaii First Nations

  Tel: 778 840 7897  Email: cheexial@gmail.com

– Chief Brian Wadhams – Trapper Namgis First Nations

   Tel: 250 974 4904 Email: brianwadhams@hotmail.com

– Karen Dunstan – Lytton First Nation Member, Trapper & Director, BC Trappers Assoc.

  Email: karen.m.dunstan@gmail.com

– Thomas Sewid Kwakwaka’wakw/Cree Pacific Balance Marine Management   

Email: tom.sewid@gmail.com

Surveying all of the tied-up boats at Campbell River’s docks leaves Tom Sewid seething and certain his wild idea is the only way to proceed after a dire fishing season.“This is our Campbell River fleet,” said Tom Sewid, who is also the founder of the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society.“And none of them made any money commercial salmon seining south of Cape Caution. So I don’t care if you’re an environmentalist. Step aside. We are going to harvest seals whether you like it or not.”The Campbell River First Nations man wants seals to be the target of Indigenous fishermen boats this winter, to harvest thousands of seals for their fur.“It’s what we call winter prime,” said Sewid.

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