Police and conservation authorities say they’ve concluded their investigation into a deer hunt that went viral, and that no charges will be laid against Nathan Chickite, who was filmed hunting a black-tailed buck in the backyard of his home on a First Nations reserve near Campbell River.
The news follows an open letter signed by Chickite, who expressed regret about the controversial hunt. The letter, which was published in We Wai Kai Nation’s June 27 newsletter, acknowledges the anger generated by a November 2017 video of the hunt.
“I understand that some people within my own First Nation community and persons outside of my immediate community were disturbed and frustrated with my actions on the day in question,” he writes in the letter. “The video that was taken of me harvesting the deer was not meant to be distributed and it was certainly not my intention to invoke any feelings of animal cruelty or unethical hunting practices.”
The letter goes on to state that Chickite and his family were “subjected to very disparaging comments after the deer harvest video went viral,” a clear reference to attacks on social media.
Chickite also said in the letter that if given the opportunity to relive the moment of the hunt, he “would not have harvested the deer in that manner or in that location.”
Meat from the black-tailed buck was “fully utilized and shared with an elder” in his community, he said, noting that he prides himself as a hunter who provides for himself and other families in the We Wai Kai community.
Chickite added that he’s “hopeful that the deer harvest incident of November 2017 can be put behind me and that the BC Conservation Officer Service may conclude their investigation.”
The letter noted that it came following discussions with Ronald Chickite, who is a counsellor with We Wai Kai Nation, and BC Conservation Officer Steve Petrovcic. They served as witnesses to the signing of the letter, and their signatures appear on the document.
In a statement emailed to the Mirror, Petrovcic said that “no other enforcement action is being considered and the Conservation Officer Service file is concluded.”
He said that RCMP recommended firearms-related charges, but the Crown decided not to pursue court action. Instead, the Crown suggested that conservation authorities “pursue an alternative, positive outcome.”
Petrovcic said that he was part of the investigative process and “worked with both the local First Nation and the local RCMP” to reach a conclusion in the matter.
Campbell River RCMP confirmed that the case was closed. Chickite declined to comment.
These developments follow a Snapchat post that went viral last November. The video shows a man, later identified as Chickite, shooting a small buck in the backyard of his home, located on the Quinsam reserve just outside of Campbell River.
In the video, Chickite slits the deer’s throat before dragging it across the yard, where the animal flails as it bleeds out. Another man was recording the incident. The two men high-five, and they can be heard laughing.
The video generated furious commentary online, with some observers accusing Chickite of animal cruelty. Others expressed outrage about the fact that a gun was discharged in a residential area. Some comments on social media forums also exposed old tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, with some comments revealing strong anti-Indigenous sentiments.
Chickite downplayed the incident on social media, citing his rights as a First Nations hunter. But the incident didn’t sit well with some We Wai Kai elders. Chief Brian Assu also said the band didn’t condone the hunt.
Chickite’s letter, which was posted to the Campbell River Rant, Rave and Randomness Facebook page, is also generating outrage.
Assu couldn’t be reached for comment, but previously stated that the band would take action to ensure that the incident didn’t repeat itself. Assu also said that bylaws on community safety were under review, and he noted that the We Wai Kai people have been harvesting wildlife on their lands since time immemorial.
“Our traditional teachings include protocols and rules around how, when and where we harvest,” he said, adding that hunting is critical both as a food source and as a cultural practice.
“However, discharging a firearm to harvest in our residential community is not acceptable and the membership as a whole is distraught over these events.”