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'They busted the locks on our deep freeze': Sask. Cree elder says moose meat was confiscated in raid

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An elder from Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation says his home was raided last fall by conservation officers who confiscated moose meat intended for use in a ceremonial gathering and feast.

"They busted the locks on our deep freeze," Doug Morningchild told reporters Friday morning during a news conference organized by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous (FSIN) Nations.

According to Morningchild and the FSIN, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment staff showed up at his home unannounced on Oct.7.

"[An officer] said that I killed three moose, but how can I kill three moose when I didn't even have any firearms," Morningchild said.

"Any meat that we had, we had been saving for the following spring season once we started our ceremonies."

He said he was charged for having wild moose meat inside the house and slapped with a nearly $3000 fine.

"I can guarantee you if you were to go to every house around my place, [they] would have wild moose meat in their house," Morningchild said.

Morningchild believes the officers were searching for meat that had been harvested on private land. He said he was told the meat would undergo DNA testing as part of the investigation.

In an emailed statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Environment confirmed the search of his home took place.

The ministry said the search was related to a "complaint of recent and unlawful hunting activity" on private land involving the harvesting of two moose.

During the search the officers allegedly found evidence that was "later confirmed to be related to the unlawful harvest of the animals."

Morningchild's charges were dismissed on Jan. 26, due to a technicality, according to both the ministry and the FSIN.

"It's very painful to hear our elders try to explain what happened to them. It was obviously very traumatic and I just want to point [to the fact] First Nations people. We have an inherent in treaty right to hunt, fish, trap and gather," FSIN vice chief Heather Bear said.

"This mistreatment was horrifying to Doug and his wife and these actions cannot go unaddressed," Bear said.

The FSIN said it sent a formal letter in June 2020 requesting an inquiry related to multiple complaints by First Nations people about their treatment by Ministry of Environment staff.

On Friday, it renewed its call for an inquiry and said ministry staff need more education concerning Treaty rights.

"When guns or wild meat is confiscated, it impacts the whole nation, especially those who hunt for ceremonial purposes and who hunt for single mothers and for others that need food," Bear said.

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