Out by Sixth Bridge in JNP, there’s a spacious meadow which once housed the JNP fish hatchery, warden offices, and Parks Canada staff accommodations.
Long before, it was a place where Indigenous Peoples gathered.
It’s a surreal site; native grasses carpet open meadows and the whisper of rustling aspens and the murmur of the Maligne River are the only discernible sounds. Fittingly, it is now welcoming back Indigenous groups with ties to JNP, as a cultural and spiritual site.
This area is also a wildlife corridor. However, the animal currently grazing there is not an elk or a deer but an ungainly pachyderm—an elephant in the room. As reported in The Jasper Local (Fire for ceremony during ban was justified: supe, August 1) a grizzly bear was lured into camp by an untidy campsite and a ceremonial fire was allowed to burn during a park and town-wide ban. Typically these are serious park offences which have serious consequences. The elephant is the fact that no one is administering or talking about these violations.
Many park users, including myself, have furrowed brows and silent questions on our tongues; we all understand the importance of proper food storage when camping. Why don’t wildlife safety park rules apply to this site? In addition to spiritual and cultural ceremonies, this site should strive to be an exemplary model of what’s expected and important in a national park and why.
Many have worked very hard to make this site a reality and maybe some things have to be reassessed; while it’s absolutely important to have this distinctive place for spiritual and cultural ceremonies, the site should not be a lawless oasis in the middle of a national park. Indigenous groups should be encouraged to respect park regulations, still be able to practice traditional ceremonies but not at the expense of public safety and compromising wildlife. Moreover, Parks Canada should deal with these violations in the same way other users’ violations are dealt with.
The native grasses in that surreal, open meadow have to sway in harmony and peace.
Loni Klettl // firstname.lastname@example.org