10/17/2013 09:41 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Dead albino moose honoured in Mi'kmaq ceremony

The Mi’kmaq community in Nova Scotia held a traditional native ceremony on Thursday night to restore the spirit of an albino moose killed by hunters.

The white animal is sacred in Mi'kmaq culture and the widespread images of its carcass last week upset many people.

The animal is considered spiritual offering and a connection to the creator. The hunters said they did not know about the animal's significance.

“There was a lot of bitterness, anger, frustration within the community and they felt a lack of respect,” said Bob Gloade, chief of Millbrook First Nation.

But leaders said Thursday's ceremony was about reconciliation between the Mi’kmaq people and the hunters.

A sacred fire burned as they gifted the animal’s white hide to the daughter of Nora Bernard, a well-known residential school activist. The moose meat was donated to Feed Nova Scotia.

The hunters attended the ceremony. Mark Drysdale said had no idea it was considered sacred.

“We’re not bad people,” he said. “Unfortunately we didn’t know.”

The hunters and elders smoked a peace pipe together and performed a ceremony in a sweat lodge.

Leaders said the ritual will end the bad luck said to follow anyone who kills an albino moose.

October is Mi’kmaq history month in Nova Scotia and Gloade said the incident illustrated the knowledge gap between Mi’kmaq and mainstream culture.

Protecting the white moose

Mi’kmaq hunters said three white moose have been seen in Nova Scotia recently. One became sick and was put down by the Department of Natural Resources and the second was killed by the hunters. The third remains in the woods.

Gloade said the chiefs met on Thursday and agreed to support a motion motion to make it illegal to kill a white moose in Nova Scotia.