Squaxin Council Issues Quick Apology On Deer Killed By Canoers In Tribal Waters

Andy Walgamott, Northwest Sportsman

Reacting quickly to a disturbing video showing two canoeloads of men and a woman pursuing and killing a blacktail buck swimming in tribal waters of southern Puget Sound earlier this week, the Squaxin Tribal Council issued an apology, saying it is “deeply saddened” by the footage and called the chase “entirely improper and contrary” to its tribal beliefs and teachings.

The 12-plus-minute video surfaced on Facebook at midweek, shows one crewmember take a single swipe at the deer with his paddle, two others diving in to capture the animal, and then the apparent slitting of its throat alongside one of the two long cedar canoes.

It was shared around, a copy was made and posted to YouTube. We describe more about it here.

The council’s statement reads:

An Apology from Squaxin Island Tribal Council on Recent Events in the taking of a deer in Squaxin Island Waters.

“Recently, video footage of tribal people taking inappropriate actions in the taking of a deer in Squaxin Island Tribal waters came to the attention of the Squaxin Island Tribal Council. The Council is deeply saddened by the events depicted in the video, and wishes to make clear that such actions will not be tolerated, now or in the future. The actions of the individuals involved are entirely improper and are contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Squaxin Island Tribe. The matter has been referred to the proper law enforcement agencies and the Tribe will take appropriate steps to address the actions of the individuals involved. As a Tribe, we are sorry that these actions occurred, and will take all steps necessary to see that they are not repeated.”

The statement was signed by all seven members of the council.

One of those members, Ray Peters, this morning said that he is a hunter who learned the proper way to harvest game from his family.

“I was always taught to respect animals and to honor what they give us,” he said.

“It was shameful,” Peters said of the “disturbing” video, and termed the deer “defenseless.”

“It does not depict the way we harvest animals,” he said.

Peters says the matter has been turned over to law enforcement.

“We’re not taking this lightly,” he said.

Officials are trying to identify the people involved. Peters said that while the canoes appear to be Squaxin craft, their paddlers’ tribal memberships have yet to be fully confirmed.

Mike Cenci, the deputy chief of enforcement for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, says that a search warrant was served on the pickup of one of the individuals — the man who allegedly slit the buck’s throat — at the man’s residence in another county.

Deer remains were found in a tote in the vehicle, he said. The truck was also seized.

He stressed that that man was “not affiliated with the Squaxin Tribe,” and that he was “well outside” his tribe’s ceded area.

Anyway, there is no tribal or state deer hunting season in that area that is currently open, he said.

And just as Peters was, Cenci was disturbed by the cruel pursuit and killing of the exhausted animal out of its element.

“We have a close working relationship with the Squaxin police and tribe. They immediately recognized that this act would negatively detract from a very important cultural event, and have taken it seriously from the moment it occurred,” Cenci noted.

The killing appears to have taken place during a practice run for this year’s traditional tribal canoe journey, coming up in August. The voyages were resurrected at the 100th anniversary of statehood and have continued every summer since. This year’s culminates at the Quinault Indian Reservation; First Lady Michelle Obama may attend.

The video sparked revulsion where it was originally posted on Facebook as well as on Hunting Washington, where it also stirred debate.