Julie Vantunen and Ramona Naziel – all from Wet'suwet'en Territory –
share their experiences, healing and vision for their “Huntress Camp”
Being on traditional lands hunting and harvesting with other women is powerfully healing.
Huntresses from the Wet’suwet’en Territory have joined forces to share their knowledge, culture, and hobbies with other women who are interested in learning about hunting. Many Wet’suwet’en women already hunt, so the idea to create an opportunity to share with other women was born.
The first Huntress Camp was hosted two years ago on Wet’suwet’en traditional lands with a handful of huntresses, including Julie Vantunen and Ramona Naziel, and one male hunter/cultural guide from each of the five Wet’suwet’en clans: Gil_seyhu (Big Frog), Laksilyu (Small Frog), Gitdumden (Wolf/Bear), Laksamshu (Fireweed), and Tsayu (Beaver Clan).
The Huntress Camp provides a great opportunity for participants to not only get in touch with the land, but to also learn about the culture and history of the territory. Several participants of the one-week retreat said that learning about hunting, gun safety, and the history of the territory made them feel empowered and invigorated. Some said that while hunting, they could feel the spirits of their ancestors walking with them, and others said they enjoyed the experience of learning how to have fun and share again. Throughout the retreat, the women bonded, laughed together, and created nicknames for each other. They said they were able to experience a measure of healing while on the land together, and to feel at peace with nature and themselves.
By the end of the week, the women went home feeling empowered, with a renewed sense of self-confidence. Participating in the Huntress Camp solidified for them the idea that this work of hunting is good medicine for everyone, not just men. Many of the participants felt excited to go out and hunt again.
The Huntress Camp Program is one way that First Nations people are bringing culture back. It emphasizes sharing, safety, and connection to family and community. Our Elders’ teachings for how to be safe on the territory, and important protocols, such as “take what you need,” and “share or leave what you don’t,” are respected and passed down at this camp.
A mother and daughter have attended the camp for two years in a row, with the daughter learning from her mother and her community. She not only gets to practice as a new huntress to become independent and self-sufficient, but also to connect with culture, community, and land.
The hope is that each generation of girls and women will continue to gain more knowledge of gun safety, hunting, and being out on the land so they are able to pass those teachings down to the ones who will come after them. The Huntress Camp promotes generational learnings and teachers while raising up and connecting strong Indigenous girls and women.
“I started hunting with my father. He had taught my brother how to hunt, but us girls, we weren't taught that growing up. It wasn't our job to hunt; we took care of the home. Through my learning how to provide for myself, I will be able to provide this knowledge, including about gun safety, to my daughter so she too can be self-sufficient and provide for herself without needing help from anyone else." ~ Julie Vantunen
The three huntresses – Diana Creyke, Julie Vantunen and Ramona Naziel – recently hosted their second camp. They say it is only the beginning of what they hope to accomplish. They plan to build on what they already know while also including other communities and nations.
They will first invite the nearby Hagwilget, Witset, and Telkwa Nations to collaborate in Huntress Camps where each Nation would exchange knowledge from and information on their ways of hunting, traditional use of lands, and different cultures.
Thanks to the success of the Wet’suwet’en Territory Huntress Camp, an Urban Huntress Camp for urban Indigenous women was developed by Trish Naziel. Julie and Ramona have been helping support them by sharing their experiences and learnings from the Wet’suwet’en Huntress Camp. They hope that one day all Indigenous women who are interested can choose to access the skills, culture, and connection hunting brings.
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