Cross posted at Huffington Post, but with updates and new photos here.
"If you take the fur of ma'iingan, you take the flesh off my back." -- Robert DesJarlait
The crowd fighting the chilly winds of Lake Superior marched through downtown Duluth, Minnesota to protest the beginning of a controversial wolf-hunting season. Robert DesJarlait carried the Cherish the Children Eagle Staff as he and Niibiwi Misko Makwa lead several hundred supporters for Wolf Walk 2012. Designed like a shepherd's staff, the Eagle Staff is a powerful symbol, representing the stature and honor of a tribe. The honor of the Anishinaabe called them to come to the aid of their brother, the wolf.
Credit: Ivy Vainio
Despite lawsuits and public opposition, wolf hunting began in Minnesota on November 3. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with the full support of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D), offered 6,000 licenses to kill 400 wolves. As of now, hunters killed 119 wolves in ten days.
In a lawsuit filed on September 18, the Center for Biological Diversity and the group Howling for Wolves charged that the DNR failed to provide a formal opportunity for public comment. At issue is the fact that despite wolves being removed from the Federal register of endangered species in January 2012,Minnesota's 2001 wolf management plan requires that wolves not be hunted or trapped for five years after removal from the register.
The Minnesota state legislature passed a budget bill in 2011 that authorized the DNR to open wolf hunting after a period of public comment. Instead of opening a formal comment period, the department offered an online survey. Seventy-five percent of 7,351 responses opposed the hunt, which has been supported by Minnesota's substantial deer hunting lobby. Opponents say that the deer population is at least one million and that individual wolves kill 15 deer a year, usually sick or compromised individuals. Six thousand deer is an inconsequential amount, considering the total deer population.
For complete information on the evolution of the wolf hunting bill and party-line votes click here.
In the end, the Minnesota wolf hunt prevailed despite all court challenges.
The dry scientific and legal facts offer fodder for heated discussion, but there is an important story of spiritual and moral imperative that has escaped media attention. This sacred story of creation belongs to Native peoples. In Minnesota, there are seven Anishinaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe) reservations and four Dakota (Sioux). Understand that tribes retained these "reservations" after ceding original homelands to the United States through treaty agreements. The federal government did not "give" anything to the indigenous people. Most of the land was taken, treaties are under legal challenges, and for that reason, putting values and numbers on "acreage" is meaningless. And here it is where we must begin with the wolf, who is the heart center of the native peoples' creation story.
The Anishinaabe or Ojibwe creation story teaches that the original man, the Anishinaabeg, was "lonely and asked the Creator for a companion," says Reyna Crow of the Northwoods Wolf Alliance.
The Creator sent Wolf (Ma'iingan) to be the Peoples' companion and brother. Ma'iingan and Anishinaabeg were told to travel together and name everything in nature, including all of the plants and animals. After they did this, they returned to the Creator who told Wolf and Anishinaabeg that he would separate them. From now on they would forever walk apart from each other, but that they would live parallel lives. "WHAT HAPPENS TO ONE WILL ALSO BEFALL THE OTHER," the Creator said.
The final part of the creation narrative tells the People that Wolf felt badly that his human companions would be lonely without him. So, he gave his descendant, Dog (Animoosh), as a sacred gift. Now Dog is the Peoples' loyal and devoted companion, ensuring that there is no need to walk alone.
In the course of the brutal settlement of America, both the wolf and indigenous peoples were hunted, slaughtered, hated, and vilified as white culture bled across the tapestry of the land. Indeed, Wolf and the People are still walking parallel lives.
"If you take the fur of ma'iingan, you take the flesh off my back," says Robert DesJarlait, of the Red Lake Ojibwe-Anishinaabe Nation. DesJarlait is a writer, journalist, artist and a member of the University of Minnesota Council of Elders. DesJarlai "signs his works of art with the symbol of a wolf's paw to honor the historic and ancient connection between tribal people and wolves."
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