When Marion Erickson’s nine-year-old son Keom made his first kill — a porcupine — she realized they’d need to adapt the traditions that go along with this milestone in his life because of physical distancing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erickson and her family live in Prince George, B.C., and they go on annual traditional hunts. She said the first kill marks a significant rite of passage for her son and that the family is expected to process the animal and give it to other clans in the Dakelh Nation.
“In non-pandemic times, he would have to go and hand out the meat to somebody that’s not our clan. And with the quills, of course, give the quills away and go to each house,” she said.
“It’s a way to show that this young man is turning into a provider, so sending it to the other clans shows that he’s growing and we’re teaching him.”
In normal circumstances, distributing the meat and quills from the animal would happen face-to-face, giving Keom the chance to tell everyone his hunting story in person.
But because of the pandemic, the family decided it wasn’t a good idea to be going door-to-door.
Erickson decided to get Keom to write the story down. She said they’ll be sending it to people in the mail along with the quills when they’re finished cleaning and processing them all.
6 years of target practice
Keom hand-wrote the story on a letterhead that details who his family is — his parents and his clan.
“I shot the porcupine’s paw when it was standing up at the bridge,” he wrote.
“I missed his bum.”
The porcupine ran off. Keom chased after it with his mom, found it not far from the bridge and got his first kill.
Erickson said her son started target practice when he was just three years old.
“Six years of target practice finally paid off for him,” she said.
She said the hunt was done in a respectful way and that “the only way that Keom was even able to shoot at an animal [was] when we found that he had a respectful connection with nature and the understanding of an animal as sacred.”
She said the family gives thanks to the animal and that her son is excited to send the quills to people who do beadwork to see where they might travel.
“We know that some beaders sell their work internationally, so he’s hoping they can go around the world,” she said.
Since the hunting trip, Erickson has also been documenting and sharing how she’s been processing the porcupine. She said pandemic life has led to more documentation and sharing of cultural practices online.
“Because other people want to know, too, and it’s not like we can just invite a bunch of people over,” she said.
She said right after writing the story of his first hunt, Keom was heading back to the land on another trip.