The shooting of a rare white moose – a Spirit Moose to the Mi’kmaq people – has angered many people in First Nations communities across Nova Scotia.
The animal was shot by three non-native hunters during a weekend hunting trip in the Cape Breton Highlands.
The carcass of the albino male was brought to a hunting and fishing store in Elmsdale, N.S. but on the way, the men stopped at a First Nations gas station and posed for pictures with the animal.
When people on Cape Breton’s Wagmatcook First Nation saw the pictures of the rare moose displayed like a trophy, it didn’t sit well.
“It made me feel sick to my stomach, I couldn’t believe it,” says area resident Simon Denny, who has hunted moose all his life.
“Any other gas station, they could have stopped and got gas, but they had to drive through a reservation and gas up there and it’s just a slap in the face.”
It is not illegal to shoot a white moose, so long as it is during hunting season and the hunter is licensed to do so, but the Mi'kmaq say it breaks an unwritten rule, a cultural belief they have held for generations.
Martha Isadore, a community elder on the Wagmatcook First Nation, says shooting a sacred animal is not only taboo, it is also believed to be a bad omen.
“My grandmother, my uncle, used to say that nobody shoots the white moose, it is bad luck,” says Isadore.
Bob Gloade, chief of Millbrook First Nation, says the animal’s pure white colour signifies a spiritual gift.
“It’s considered a sacred animal and it is considered to be a link from the Mi'kmaq people to our ancestors and to the creator,” says Gloade.
Gloade says it is too late for this moose, but he wants a community traditionalist to perform a ceremony to bless its body. He is working with the Department of Natural Resources and the hunting store to reach out to those who shot the animal.
“They’re working together to approach these hunters to help educate them, as well as other hunters,” says Gloade.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald