By Reyna Crow
The Northwoods Wolf Alliance, which has a focus on Anishinaabeg environmental ethics, is seeking support in passing bills which would re-instate a 5 year moratorium on wolf hunting in Minnesota.
Traditional Anishinaabeg in our organization share concerns that there is no biological rationale for a hunt, that killing for ‘fun’ is not consistent with a ‘subsistence’ hunting ethic, and other arguments advanced by many in the state, but additionally oppose the hunt on cultural grounds.
In the “Declaration Designating The White Earth Reservation As A Ma’iingan (Wolf) Sanctuary,” the White Earth Reservation Tribal Council states:
“The Ma’iingan (wolves) has a special relationship with the Anishinabeg. They are recognized as educators of the Anishinabeg who teach hunting and working together as a family unit. The Anishinabeg creation story explains that Ma’iingan is a brother to Original man. The two traveled together throughout the earth naming everything. When they had finished naming everything, the Creator separated them and sent original man and ma’iingan on separate paths, but indicated that as brothers, what happened to one of them would also happen to the other.
As brothers taking separate paths there are many similarities between Ma’iingan and Anishinabeg. Both have extensive clan systems, both mate for life and raise their young in a family environment. Over time, both the Ma’iingan and the Anishinabeg have shared a similar fate. Both have lost land, both have been mistreated, both have been misunderstood and both have been hunted. Yet, both have also survived. The recovery of the Ma’iingan population is viewed by the Anishinabeg as a positive sign. Harm to the Ma’iingan population endangers the very being of the Anishinabeg and threatens the health and welfare of the tribe.”
In Minnesota, both have been targeted for extermination and driven into ever more smaller and remote areas of the state. Both had bounties placed on their hair or fur, and were vilified as ‘vermin’ who needed to be out of the way to enable white settlers to use the land for raising domesticated animals and other economic activity that displaced both ma’iingan and the Anishinaabeg.
Policy already allows livestock and pet owners to shoot wolves they feel are in some way ‘threatening’ their property, and they are compensated for any animals they can verify were killed by wolves. Hundreds of wolves are already killed annually in retaliation for being too close to the livestock in northern Minnesota. Many feel that wolves, already limited to only 5% of their traditional territories, and hence hardly ‘recovered,’ belong here. When white ranchers bring cows, sheep and turkeys here, displacing ma’iingan even further, it is hard to see the occasional taking of a domestic animal by a wolf as an outrage. Many feel it is a just ‘tax’ that the farmer or rancher owes to the elder they have crowded off his traditional hunting grounds.
Indeed — this hunt is not about biology or economics — wolves drive substantial tourism spending, some say to the tune of $500 million annually, in northern Minnesota and are clearly more valuable to most Minnesotans alive than dead. This hunt is about culture, specifically, as Mark Johnson of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association put it at a panel discussion in Duluth last fall, “It’s about OUR culture.”
An internal DNR email from Chief of the Wildlife Management Section Dennis Simon to other DNR staff names ‘hunters and trappers’ and the livestock industry, respectively, as the DNR’s primary and secondary constituents, who were ‘owed’ a hunt.
Tom Landwehr, DNR Commissioner has stated that “It’s not the MN DNR’s job to consider cultural arguments while managing the wolf hunt.” He appears to take the cultural values of a small segment of Minnesotans who think wolves are ‘vermin’ and should be killed in often very slow and painful manners (trapping and snaring) for fun very seriously, while failing to engage in meaningful government to government negotiation with the tribes.
Anishinaabeg or not, the public should be the DNR’s constituency and we ask for your support in passing S.F. #0666 and H.F. #1163.
The Senate Environment and Energy Committee will hold a hearing on SF #0666 Thursday, March 14th at 12:00, with a plan to adjourn at 2:30 if necessary, and reconvene at 6:00 pm. Written testimonials with your name, address, phone numbers, word document preferred, can be emailed firstname.lastname@example.org prior to 9:00 am Thurs, March 14 and will be distributed to committee members.
Reyna Crow is a freelance writer, Co-founder of the Northwoods Wolf Alliance and organizer for Idle No More Duluth.