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Whitehorse school bus driver Darcy Laliberty. He had an ’emotional’ and ‘intense’ experience with four members of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, watching how they harvested every bit of a moose. (George Maratos/CBC) When Darcy Laliberty got wind of a dead moose on the side of the Alaska Highway last winter, he had no idea he’d be watching the animal’s eyeballs get hung from a tree a few hours later.

Laliberty, who is non-Indigenous, ended up having an "emotional" and "intense" experience with four members of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, watching how they harvested every bit of the animal. The First Nation recently featured the story of the harvest in their local newsletter, calling it "A Story of Gratitude."

It started when a friend called Laliberty and told him about the moose, which had been struck by a vehicle and left for dead.

Laliberty, who lives in Whitehorse, had been skunked on his own hunting trip earlier in the year. So with nothing to lose, he drove out to check on the animal, hoping to get some meat.

"I phoned the COs — conservation officers — to see if I could go ahead and start taking this animal apart," said Laliberty. "They told me it was Kwanlin Dun First Nations land and they had the first crack at it."

Laliberty hung up the phone and waited with the moose. Working together

Meanwhile, Kwanlin Dun citizen Ray Sydney had settled into his favourite television show when his phone rang. It was the RCMP calling to let him know about the moose.

Sydney then called his brother and two other Kwanlin Dun citizens. He knew they only had a small window of opportunity to harvest the moose "so that it’s healthy and clean and unspoiled." Kwanlin Dun citizen Ray Sydney invited Laliberty to take part in the harvest. (George Maratos/CBC) They grabbed their hunting packs and hopped in their trucks.

As Laliberty waited in –30 C, the two trucks pulled up and the four men got out, planning their attack.

He pointed out that the moose was a cow and might be pregnant, which it was. He then asked if he could assist in the harvesting of the animal.

At first, Laliberty says his request was met with apprehension. But then Sydney recognized Laliberty as his daughter’s bus driver, and he was invited to take part in the harvest.

"I was honoured … humbled to be invited along," said Laliberty. "It was a pretty amazing experience." Harvesting the moose

The harvest started with Sydney offering up tobacco for the animal and a prayer.

"We pray for the spirit of the moose and ask that the creator guide that spirit where it needs to go," said Sydney. "We thank the moose for giving its life so that others may survive and that we honour the moose by harvesting the hide and all parts of the animal."

With the prayer complete, the four men then pulled out their knives and, like a well-oiled machine, using their decades of experience, they got to work.

"One goes to one leg, the other goes to another leg, one on the back leg and another on the head," said Sydney, who harvested his first moose at the age of 12. "Within a few minutes half the moose is skinned and the head’s off."Soon after the lungs and heart are removed, along with the animal’s intestines. Even the bum guts get used. Last winter a dead cow moose was discovered here, on the side of the Alaska Highway near Cousins Airstrip. (George Maratos/CBC) Then it was time to remove the tiny calves."When they pulled those calves out it was […]

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