WHITE EARTH INDIAN RESERVATION, Minn. — Some Ojibwe in Minnesota are worried about the fate of the state's wolf population as state lawmakers consider a hunting and trapping season for the animals.

Wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list last year, and that upsets some tribal members. For many Ojibwe, wolves are important to traditional culture. Some believe wolves are sacred, and they want to see protections continue.

A painting of two wolves hangs prominently on the living room wall in Mary Favorite's home in Wauben on the White Earth Indian Reservation.

Favorite is a tribal elder and a member of the wolf clan. That means many in her large, extended family associate themselves very closely with the animal. Favorite considers wolves among her relatives.

"It's very special to me. When I read that in the paper that they were thinking about... passing a law about killing the wolves," Favorite said. "It broke my heart."

Favorite remembers decades ago when gray wolves nearly disappeared. Now there are an estimated 3,000 gray wolves in Minnesota.

The Department of Natural resources proposes to let hunters and trappers kill 400 wolves this fall. Favorite hates the idea.

"I thought, 'Oh my God,'" she said. "It's like they want to come in here and they want to shoot my brothers and my sisters."

It's not just members of the wolf clan who are upset about a possible wolf hunting season. Favorite's husband, Andy, is a historian and retired tribal college teacher. For traditional Ojibwe across the upper Midwest, wolves are sacred, Andy Favorite said.

"In our creation stories and a lot of our other legends, the wolf is very prominent. A lot of our spirits come in the form of these creatures, so it's a very spiritual thing," he said. "If the tribes have the spiritual moxie, they will step in and do something to protect the wolves."

Some Minnesota tribes have already done that. In 2010, the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe was the first to adopt a wolf management plan. They designated the band's 843,000 acres of land as a wolf sanctuary.

Red Lake is unique because it's considered a closed reservation. That means most of the land is owned and controlled by the tribe.

In most of Minnesota's other reservations, regulating hunting is more complicated because there's a checkerboard of land ownership. Those tribes regulate what happens on tribal land, but the state regulates hunting licenses for state land or land owned by non-American Indians.

In February, tribal officials at White Earth passed a resolution banning hunting and trapping on tribal lands. The tribe will only allow a wolf hunt for specific ceremonial purposes, or if wolves are causing problems with livestock or humans. Tribal natural resource managers said it's unclear how many wolves are on the reservation, but there are only a few known packs.

Other Minnesota tribes are drafting their own wolf policies.

Tribal activist Bob Shimek has been involved in the politics of wolves since the 1980s. He said many Ojibwe people believe there is a strong historic parallel between wolves and Indians that has been foretold in tribal legends — what happens to one, happens to the other. He compares bounties on wolves to government policies of the past that tried to exterminate American Indians.

"Indians and wolves have always been a political sore point here in America," he said. "It has always been about clearing the howling wilderness of those savages and those wolves and making it safe for pilgrims and settlers."

Shimek and others are unhappy the state has not consulted with the tribes about managing wolves.

DNR officials say they plan to talk with the tribes once the Legislature establishes a framework for a hunting season. Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist for the DNR, said the goal is to balance wide-ranging interests in wolves. Farmers and ranchers who lose livestock to wolves support keeping the wolf population in check. In 2011, there were more than 100 verified complaints of wolves attacking livestock or pets.

There are also sporting groups that want a chance to hunt or trap wolves for recreation, Stark said.

"It's a pretty emotional topic for a lot of people," Stark said. "But I think that the wolf population in Minnesota is secure and we're going to make sure that however this develops, that we have wolves in the state and that wolves continue to thrive."

For Shimek, convincing the state to scrap plans for wolf hunting and trapping is an uphill battle.

"I honestly believe that a thousand Indians could show up in St. Paul to testify against this wolf legislation and it would not matter one single bit in terms of the outcome," Shimek said. "That's just the nature of politics."

On Thursday, Shimek and others at White Earth will begin a series of public education "wolf talks" on the reservation, although opposition to a wolf hunting season has not seemed to slow the bills that are advancing through the Legislature.

by Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio Via http://minnesota.publicradio.org/


Responses to "Ojibwe Native American tribal members object to wolf hunting, trapping (Audio)"

  1. the wolf spirit
    The wolf spirit
    The wolf spirit is like a beautiful song
    One can feel it forever, it is never too long
    The wolf spirit is like the freedom of clouds
    Hovering ever so gently, with head held so proud
    The wolf spirit dances in sunshine and rain
    In all four of our seasons, without any disdain
    The wolf spirit lives in the mountains up high
    Its grandeur is endless, it can touch the sky
    The wolf spirit belongs to all who live on earth
    It will live forever, no one can measure its worth
    KLK ♥

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have several pictures of wolves hanging on my walls and it hurts me to think that they are going to kill these great animals. They have a right to live and their spirit is strong.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I carry the soul of the wolf with me. he had no choice but to come with me when the pack was killed and the last wolf died in the UK .

  4. Anonymous says:

    To hunt and disturb Wolfs as is done now is wrong, very wrong. For man to be allowed to shoot anything in the wild and call it hunting is a serious sacrilege in this society, it is creating illusions of outdoor grandeurs that lead to arrogant character deficiencies at best, for most of the wildlife is killed not for need but for greed. I just can’t help feeling very strong about this issue of wronging the Wolf as a species, for everything action causes reactions in turn and the earth is vibrant with life. This is killing conscience and human pays with lack of conscience it seems, the earth cannot tolerate being murdered like this and these wildlife creatures are here for a different reason than to be killed and exterminated in the name of sport and treads. It is wrong to kill and take life, just wrong. I detest the killing of Wolfs and pray the tribes will be strong and victorious so Wolf may walk free and be friend to people again. Barbara G Cook Trout Creek Montana

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