By Michele Bourdieu
Charlotte Loonsfoot, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Natural Resources Committee chairwoman, introduces KBIC elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan to a group of concerned citizens gathered for a scheduled meeting of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council on Dec. 10 at Michigan Tech. Unfortunately, the meeting was cancelled, but several people stayed to hear Ojiingwaanigan's comments on the position of the wolf in Ojibwe culture and his opposition to proposed Michigan wolf hunt legislation. (Photo by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)
HOUGHTON -- "The wolf is a spiritual being. He is wise. He is our teacher."
This statement was at the heart of Ojibwe elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan's comments to Keweenaw Now and to a small group of concerned citizens who showed up at
Michigan Tech on Monday evening, Dec. 10, for the scheduled Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council (CAC) meeting. Unfortunately, those present had not been informed that the meeting had been cancelled as of Sunday night because of inclement weather in Marquette and the lack of enough CAC members for a decision-making quorum.
The meeting was supposed to begin at 5:30 p.m., and public comments were part of the agenda. At about 5:50 p.m., the group heard the meeting was cancelled because of the weather. However, some stayed to listen to Ojiingwaanigan, who had traveled from Crystal Falls (about 70 miles) to Houghton to present to CAC members and DNR officials his comments on proposed legislation for a wolf hunt in Michigan.*
Ojibwe elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan expresses his opposition to a proposed wolf hunt in Michigan. He explains the traditional fraternal relationship of the wolf and the Ojibwe. "The wolf is my brother in faith," Ojiingwaanigan says. A small group of citizens listen to Ojiingwaanigan in the Memorial Union Ballroom at Michigan Tech, where a meeting of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council (CAC) was supposed to take place on Monday, Dec. 10, but had been cancelled as of Sunday evening. While the cancellation was announced to people on the DNR's email lists, these citizens, and Keweenaw Now, were unaware of it. They stayed for a while to listen to comments Ojiingwaanigan had planned to make at the meeting. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)
Earl Ojiingwaanigan continues ...
Ojibwe elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan, who is fluent in the Ojibwe language, notes he comes from a family of chiefs. He says he feels slighted that he was not consulted about the proposed wolf hunt legislation sponsored by outgoing 110th District State Rep. Matt Huuki and State Senator Tom Casperson.* He mentions broken treaties and a lack of understanding about the culture of the Ojibwe people, who consider the wolf their brother. (Video by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)
Charlotte Loonsfoot, KBIC member and KBIC Natural Resources Committee chairwoman, said she came to the scheduled meeting to support Ojiingwaanigan and to ask the DNR and CAC members to include Native American tribes in all their affairs and decisions concerning Nature and wildlife.
"We view them in a different way," Loonsfoot said, "and our input would be valuable and insightful to managing the resources we all live in. I want us all to work together as one instead of being separate."
Loonsfoot added she believes separation between groups is not helping the effort to keep a balance in the land we all share in the State of Michigan.
"I am also upset they cancelled the meeting as there was no bad weather for miles, and we made time for them," Loonsfoot said. "They could have made time for us."
A DNR spokeswoman said the agency didn't know until Sunday evening that they were going to cancel the meeting.
Debbie Munson Badini, spokeswoman from the DNR Marquette office, said a winter storm warning in Marquette Sunday evening and messages from several CAC members saying they would not be able to attend Monday's meeting in Houghton (for various reasons) led the DNR to decide on Sunday night to cancel Monday's meeting. She noted there would not be a required quorum (one more than 50 percent of members).
"We alerted the CAC members Sunday night and alerted everyone on our email lists Monday morning," Munson Badini said.
The DNR's Citizens' Advisory Council (CAC) includes members from all over the Western Upper Peninsula, she explained -- from Marquette and Delta counties all the way to Gogebic County on the western end.**
Munson Badini also noted the wolf hunt legislation was not part of the actual agenda for this meeting, but public comments can include any issue of citizens' concerns. The Dec. 10 cancelled meeting has been re-scheduled for Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. Munson Badini said the agenda for Jan. 14 would include the same items that were scheduled to be discussed on Dec. 10.
While those who received an email from the DNR may have been told the lack of a quorum was another reason, in addition to inclement weather, that the Dec. 10 meeting was cancelled, the DNR Web site merely mentioned "due to weather" as the cause. ***
In fact, it appears Michigan Tech was not notified of the cancellation. Not only was the meeting listed on the door of the Memorial Union Building (MUB) Ballroom Monday evening when people, including some Michigan Tech students, arrived to attend it, but the MUB staff had, as Ojiingwaanigan noted, prepared coffee, tables and chairs for the meeting.
Paul Campbell of Calumet said he asked the MUB student manager if he knew anything about a cancellation and received a negative reply.
"We brought the student manager right up into the building, and he told everyone the MUB wasn't notified and the DNR would still have to pay the bill -- for the use of the room, beverages, etc.," Campbell said.
In addition to the KBIC elder from Crystal Falls people had come from Baraga, Calumet and other locations outside of Houghton, he added.
"The DNR's lack of credibility is low enough," Campbell said, "and when they do things like this without notifying the public it gets even lower."
UPDATE (Dec. 12): DNR spokesperson Debbie Badini sent a correction on the above comments. She writes:
"A detailed cancellation notice was sent to UP media, our email list subscribers and was posted to our website on Monday morning. You can see the notice here:
"Also, our room reservation contact at Michigan Tech was notified on Monday that the meeting was canceled (your article says that they weren’t, but we called them right away Monday morning).
"Additionally, the winter weather advisory was in place for the entire western part of the UP on Sunday and Monday (not just Marquette)." Click here for the advisory.
* See our Nov. 7, 2012, article, "KBIC opposes legislation for wolf hunting season in Michigan." Click here to read SB 1350, passed by the Senate on Nov. 29, 2012. Click here to read about HB 5834.
** Click here to learn about the DNR Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Councils.
Click here for a nomination form for interested citizens to sit on the council.
Click here to read the Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council Charter.
Click here for minutes of the July 16, 2012, meeting of the Western Upper Peninsula CAC (the most recent minutes posted on their Web site).
*** See this cancellation announcement.