Tuesday, January 29, 2013

KBIC Elder speaks against wolf hunt at DNR Citizens' Advisory Council meeting

By Michele Bourdieu

At their Jan. 14, 2013, meeting at Michigan Tech, members of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council listened to comments by Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan on why the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) respect the wolf as a brother and why the recent Michigan legislation to allow a hunting season for wolves is wrong. (Photos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

HOUGHTON -- Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan of Crystal Falls made a second trip to Houghton this winter in order to defend the wolf in the face of new Michigan legislation, PA 520, which would allow a hunting season for a creature the Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) consider to be their brother.

"In our culture the wolf is our brother. The wolf is wise, and he is a teacher," Ojiingwaanigan told members of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council on Jan. 14, 2013, at their meeting in Houghton. "Why do you want to kill the wolf?"

At the Jan. 14 meeting Ojiingwaanigan had to wait until the comment period at the very end to make his statement. Here is his presentation, in two video clips, concerning the Ojibwe beliefs about the wolf and why this legislation, signed by Gov. Snyder on Dec. 28, 2012, opposes the Native American way of thinking about the wolf, respecting Mother Earth, and protecting the environment.

During the public comment period at the end of the Jan. 14, 2013, meeting of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council at Michigan Tech, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) Elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan speaks about the Ojibwe beliefs concerning the wolf. (Videos by Allan Baker for Keweenaw Now)

Ojiingwaanigan continues ...

KBIC Elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan continues his presentation on the wolf at the Jan. 14, 2013, meeting of the DNR Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council.

Ojiingwaanigan had previously made the trip to Houghton for the scheduled Dec. 10, 2012, meeting of the DNR Western Upper Peninsula Citizens' Advisory Council, which was cancelled at the last minute because of a weather advisory. A small group of citizens who had also come to Michigan Tech for that meeting, unaware of the cancellation, listened to Ojiingwaanigan talk about the wolf, and Keweenaw Now videotaped and posted his comments.*

Charlotte Loonsfoot, standing, KBIC co-organizer of recent Idle No More events in Baraga, attended both wolf presentations by KBIC Elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan, left, at Michigan Tech and has expressed her concern about the wolf hunt, noting the wolf's  survival is related to the survival of the Anishinaabe's brothers and sisters in Canada, where the Idle No More movement for treaty rights and environmental justice originated recently.

During the month between the two meeting dates, SB 1350 was passed by the Senate and the House and signed into law by Gov. Snyder (on Dec. 28, 2012) as PA 520 with immediate effect.

This law states as follows:
Sec. 40110b. (1) The legislature finds and declares that:
(a) The wildlife populations of the state and their habitat are of paramount importance to the citizens of this state.

(b) the sound management of wolf populations in this state is necessary, including the use of hunting as a management tool, to minimize negative human and wolf encounters and to prevent wolves from threatening or harming humans, livestock, and pets.

(2) The legislature hereby authorizes the establishment of the first open season for wolf. The commission may issue orders under section 40113a establishing annual wolf hunting seasons throughout the state.**

KBIC Wolf Management Plan opposes wolf hunting

On Jan. 10, 2013, KBIC posted its revised Wolf Management Plan, stating its purpose is "to provide a course of action that will ensure the long-term survival of a self-sustaining, wild gray wolf (Canis lupus) population in the 1842 ceded territory in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan."

This KBIC Plan and Ojiingwaanigan's comments reflect the direct opposition between the legislators' concept of "management" of the wolf through hunting and the Native Americans' purpose of management to protect the wolf's survival.

"In the event that legislation is enacted for a wolf hunt, KBIC will designate the Home Territory, approximately 3.9 million acres within the 1842 Treaty area, as Wolf Sanctuary where sport hunting and/or trapping will not be allowed," the Plan states. "In addition, KBIC will not provide Tribal wolf hunting permits to community members. These measures will help to protect wolves and maintain a strong culturally based stance against the killing of wolves. KBIC Natural Resource Department will also participate in and maintain close communication with those involved in wolf monitoring and control of human-wolf conflicts. As funding allows, we intend to increase monitoring of wolves on and near the Reservation preferably with tracking of radio-collared wolves to keep tabs on any changing status of wolf packs."***

In the audience at the Jan. 14 meeting of the Citizens' Advisory Council, in support of Elder Earl Ojiingwaanigan, are other KBIC members, including, pictured here, John Loonsfoot, left; Georgenia Earring, second from left; and E Halverson, right (second to last row). These three and Charlotte Loonsfoot (pictured above) gave their comment time to Ojiingwaanigan for his presentation, though he had to condense what he wanted to say because the comment time was still limited.

KBIC is among several groups opposing this new law, PA 520.

An organization called Keep Michigan Wolves Protected states this on their Web site: "There are fewer than 700 wolves in Michigan and their numbers are only now starting to recover. It’s not right to spend decades bringing the wolf back from the brink of extinction only to turn around and allow them to be killed for sport.

"Keep Michigan Wolves Protected is seeking to collect more than 225,000 signatures of Michigan voters to place a referendum on the ballot. If we are successful, a proposal will appear on the Michigan statewide ballot in 2014 that would allow voters to choose whether or not to enact the legislature’s wolf hunting law."****

The National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Inc, supports this signature campaign for a ballot referendum in Michigan.

According to their Web site, wolfwatcher.org, "This referendum initiative will give Michigan residents the opportunity to repeal this law (PA 520). Wolves belong to all of us and with less than 700 wolves in the State, we support the right of Michigan voters to decide whether wolves should be hunted."*****

In Minnesota, the organization Howling for Wolves has been actively opposing the Minnesota wolf hunting and trapping season. They note on their Web site the Anishinaabe view of the wolf as a brother: "In the Creation story of the Anishinabe (Chippewa) American Indians man and wolf walked the Earth and named all living beings and then parted ways to live separately but in peace as brothers. So in Minnesota all the American Indian tribes banned the hunting and trapping of wolves on tribal lands. The Anishinabe believe that their fate is directly related to that of the wolf."******

* See: "UPDATED: KBIC elder comments on proposed wolf hunt despite cancellation of DNR meeting."

** Click here to read the final version of PA 520, signed by Gov. Snyder on Dec. 28, 2012.

*** Click here for the KBIC Wolf Management Plan dated Jan. 10, 2013.

**** Visit the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected Web site to learn about the signature campaign.

***** See the Jan. 17, 2013, article, "Wolfwatcher Supports 'Keep Michigan Wolves Protected'" to learn more. See also the Jan. 23, 2013, article, "CALL to ACTION: Michigan Tribes Line Up to Protect Michigan Wolves," on Native News Network.

****** See Howling for Wolves to learn about the gray wolf.

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