This commentary by a U of MN professor of Indian Studies was published in
yesterday's Star Tribune (Minneapolis). Last year, the state reopened
hunting season on wolves. Carroll explains what's wrong with the hunting of
wolves from the Ojibwe perspective. I found it a fascinating verbalization
of the native view of animal life.
Minnesota wolf policy should include Ojibwe values
- Article by: Clint Carroll
- March 13, 2013 - 9:42 AM
On Thursday, the Minnesota Senate Environment and Energy Committee could
decide the fate of a bill
that would reinstate the five-year moratorium on wolf hunting that was
disregarded last year. In the spirit of cooperation with Minnesota tribes,
I urge our state senators to pass this bill.
The heated debate surrounding the wolf hunt in the western Great Lakes
region boils down to this: Are wolves relatives or resources? How one
answers this question shapes one�s ultimate stance on the recent
state-sanctioned hunts in Minnesota and Wisconsin. One need not be American
Indian to respect wolves as other-than-human persons.
For Ojibwe people, the wolf is a relative, and the Ojibwe are fighting to
honor their responsibilities to wolves by opposing the hunt.
The Ojibwe view is not a mystical or teary-eyed appeal to a worn-out
�stereotype. Ojibwe philosophy and natural law clearly state that people
have a shared destiny with wolves and are bound to them through a
relationship of brotherhood. In other words, wolves and the Ojibwe people
go �way back.�
Granted, without this intricate and deeply rooted relationship, it may be
hard for some nonindigenous folks to share the view that wolves are
relatives. Some may never have any intention to try. But ultimately,
considering the sovereign status of American Indian nations, incorporating
indigenous values into natural-�resource management policy is both a matter
of cultural relations and governmental relations. None of the state�s 11
federally recognized tribes were consulted about the 2012-2013 wolf season.
A state-sponsored wolf hunt is not a biological imperative. It is only one
of many ways to approach the task known as �wolf management.� In Minnesota
and Wisconsin, wolves are � technically speaking � a shared resource
between tribal and state authorities, and, as such, management
responsibilities must be shared. Despite many traditional American Indian
views that by principle oppose the philosophical underpinning of �resource
management� (the notion that humans have the authority to control the lives
of other beings), it�s clear that tribes aren�t advocating for no
management at all. Numerous Ojibwe people have voiced the opinion that
selectively killing wolves that harm or threaten livestock is a tolerable
alternative to an open season.
The issue at hand is what an organized hunt represents. Because wolves� and
Ojibwe people�s destinies are intertwined, state-sanctioned hunting seasons
� in their symbolism and their literal threat to wolves� lives � have
direct implications for the health and well-being of Ojibwe people. The
numerous Ojibwe bands that have declared their reservations to be wolf
sanctuaries speak to the gravity that tribes ascribe to this situation.
Still, the official stance of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
is that it is not within the department�s professional duties or
responsibilities to consider �cultural arguments.� The problems with this
position should be clear: 1) tribal governments represent sovereign
nations, not cultural interest groups, and 2) the Minnesota DNR cannot
claim objectivity or impartiality, because it fundamentally represents
dominant cultural values that define wolves as �resources� rather than
Because viable alternative management approaches exist, the Minnesota DNR
is overtly taking a cultural stance as long as it directs an organized wolf
Here in the United States, we have a long way to go in affirming and
recognizing indigenous environmental perspectives in policy and in
practice. When viewed beside recent policy victories in New Zealand, for
example � that have declared, by way of indigenous Maori perspectives, a
legal voice for the Whanganui River � Minnesota�s and Wisconsin�s actions
toward wolves stand in stark contrast.
But while there�s much work to be done, we can still draw upon recent
successes, such as the Red Lake Walleye Recovery Project, entailing a
memorandum of understanding between the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe and the
state of Minnesota in 1999 (renewed in 2010). These successes tell us that
comanagement and cooperation between state and tribal resource-management
agencies are not just possible, but necessary for the health and happiness
of future generations of all Minnesotans. It would behoove our legislators
and DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr to recognize and act on this.
Clint Carroll is an enrolled tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation
(Oklahoma), and is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at the
University of Minnesota.
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