Sunday, March 18, 2012

Wisconsin law will permit wolf hunting, over Indian objections

James Gorman wrote for the New York Times last week about Indian opposition to a new Wisconsin law that will permit wolf hunting. The Wisconsin legislature passed the law on Tuesday, by a vote of 69-25. Republicans and a few Democrats supported the law, while American Indian interests, some Democrats, and environmentalists opposed it.

The authorization for the hunt comes as the state's population of gray wolves has grown to about 800; a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison estimates that the state's "carrying capacity" for wolves is 1,000. Wolves in the Great Lakes region were removed from the federal endangered species list just a couple of months ago.

Gorman's piece in the NYT last Monday addressed the American Indian opposition to the hunt. He explained that the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Game Commission represents the 11 Ojibwe tribes of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Ojibwe--also known as the Chippewa and Anishinaabe--have significant wildlife management rights in the area where the wolves live, but they say they were not consulted on the hunting plans, contrary to treaty requirements.

The tribes' opposition to the hunt is based on religious tradition and principle. James Zorn, the executive administrator of the commission, testified to both legislative houses:
In the Anishinaabe creation story, we are taught that Ma'iingan (wolf) is a brother to Original man. The health and survival of the Anishinaabe people is tied to that of Ma'iingan.

* * *

Mr. Zorn said in his testimony that for the Ojibwe, "wolf recovery does to hinge primarily upon some mnimum number of animals comprising the current wolf population." Rather, he said, the gaol is "the healthiest and most abundant future for our brother and ourselves."
Gorman also quotes Joe Rose, Sr., a professor emeritus of Native American studies at Northland College in Ashland, Wis., and an elder of the Bad River Band. Rose said he "saw a collision of world views" in this dispute over wolf hunting. Gorman goes on to the compare the Ojibwe opposition to the hunt to objections to funding for abortions or birth control, which have recently been the object of a great deal of political and media attention. He writes:
What is clear is that the opposition of the Ojibwe is more like objections to funding for abortions or birth control than it is the calculations of scientists, not in political tone, but in its essence.

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