Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A History of Wolf

The wolf hunt in Michigan is not an isolated event, as those of you following the issue know. It is the last of the states in which the wolves were recently delisted to institute a hunting season on wolves.

But to understand all this, we need to go further back....

Prior to the coming of the settler society, the US Fish and Wildlife Service states ( gray wolves, second only to humans in adapting to climate extremes, ranged from coast to coast in the Americas, from Alaska to Mexico. In other words, they were in nearly all of the lower 48 states, with the exception of the southeast (where red wolves predominated) and the large deserts of the Southwest.

Wolves and First Nations shared the land and had good relations. The Anishinaabe creation stories, for example, describe the wolf as an especially sacred relative (see The Mishomis Book by Eddie Benton Banai) after all the rest of creation had come into being, the Creator brought Anishinaabe ("Original Man") into being - humanity, as the last to be created, would be the species who knew the least and who looked to everyone else as guides and teachers. Anishinaabe saw that everyone else had companions but that he, as the first human, was alone. So he asked the Creator for a companion too. The Creator responded to his request by bringing Ma'iingan (Wolf) to him as his first companion. The Creator charged the two with traveling the Earth and coming to know all of Creation and to name all they met. By the end of this long journey, Original Man and Wolf had become brothers. And through this bond of brotherhood, they realized their deep relationship to all of creation. At the end of their journey, the Creator told them they must go their separate paths, but that, though separate, they would always be close. So close, in fact, that what befell one would befall the other.

With the coming of the settler society, wolves and Native people were hunted and driven from their homelands by settlers who feared, did not understand and wanted to destroy them. As a result of such genocidal, ecocidal, and hatred-driven actions, by 1973 the wolves were put on the Endangered Species list. At this time, there were only a few hundred wolves left in the lower 48: most of these were in northeast Minnesota; a very few lived on Michigan's Isle Royale.

In May of 2011, the Obama Administration signed legislation delisting the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains. Hunts in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming ensued almost immediately (Fall of 2011).

In December of 2011, the Obama Administration delisted the gray wolf in the Great Lakes states. Wolf hunts then began in the Fall of 2012 in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Michigan's first wolf hunting season began this November 2013.

Recent news reports indicate the Obama Administration is preparing to delist gray wolves in other states as well.

In Minnesota and Wisconsin guns, traps, bow and arrow, and baiting are allowed in hunting wolves. In Wisconsin, dogs are also allowed on the hunt for wolves. In Michigan, guns, crossbows, and bow and arrows are allowed - you need only be ten years old to get a permit.

In all three states, the First Nations have forbidden wolf hunting on tribal lands.

In Wisconsin, the state recognized tribal sovereignty by respecting the tribes sovereign right to forbid wolf hunting within the boundaries of the reservations.

Michigan and Minnesota, however, have not respected tribal sovereignty in this manner and have said that while the tribes right to forbid wolf hunting on tribal lands will be recognized by the state, they will not recognize the tribes right to forbid wolf hunting on all lands within reservation boundaries. As you may know, 50% or more (frequently even more than 90%) of the lands within most reservation boundaries are no longer tribal lands but rather owned by non-Natives. Michigan and Minnesota's rejection of full tribal sovereignty is akin to saying any land owned by non-Americans within the United States will not be subject to US law but rather to the laws of the country the landowner is from.

In Wisconsin, and, I believe, Minnesota, the wolf hunts were closed early as they met their "harvest" goals weeks ahead of schedule (e.g. Wisconsin's hunt was scheduled to end on Feb 28, 2013, but it was closed on Dec 23, 2012).

For the 2012 seasons, in Minnesota, 6000 wolf hunt permits were available (at $100 for residents; $500 for non-residents) to kill 400 wolves. In Wisconsin 2,010 wolf hunt permits were available (at the same prices) to kill 117 wolves. Although I don't know Minnesota's number sold, Wisconsin was only able to sell 892 permits. In Michigan's 2013 wolf hunt season, they sold 1500 permits (at the same prices as above) to kill 43 wolves.

Michigan is the only state of the above three to have a people's referendum available to state citizens. Last winter, Keep Michigan Wolves Protected ( initiated a petition drive to put the proposed state wolf hunt on the November 2014 ballot to let the voters of Michigan decide whether or not the state should hold a wolf hunt. While those of us who worked on the drive (I myself was a volunteer) turned in more than the required signatures, Senator Tom Casperson introduced legislation into the Michigan Legislature that undercut the referendum taking the wolf hunt legislation and changing its wording so that the wording of the referendum as stated on the petition would not apply and therefore voters would not be able to vote on the wolf hunt in November 2014, even though over 200,000 signatures were gathered saying people wanted it on the ballot. A new petition drive is currently underway.

As White Earth tribal member, Bob Shimek, said, "This is a typical class of cultures." Non-native wolf supporter, Clint Carroll, a columnist for the St. Paul Star Tribune, asks, "Are wolves relatives or resources?" And, finally, Eddie Benton-Banai (Ojibwe - LCO) writes of these hunts (his caps), "NOONGOM, NOW, WE MUST RETURN [the wolf's] LOYALTY BY FIGHTING, BY DEFYING THE HUNT, THE EXTERMINATION OF OUR BROTHER/SISTER."