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Wisconsin tribes want federal protections for wolves


Local tribes want U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to relist wolves on the federal endangered species list to stop them from being overhunted.

The Lac du Flambeau, Lac Vieux Desert and Fond du Lac Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa are among 10 Ojibwe tribes who want to meet with Haaland to discuss federal protections for the animal.

Wolves play a major role in the stories and history of many American Indian groups.

Tribes in the Northwest say their ancestors were transformed from wolves into men and local Anishinaabe stories describe wolves as man’s best friend.

“When original man was made by the creator, he didn’t have anyone to walk by his side so the creator put a wolf by him and they were friends until society took over and they had to separate,” John Johnson, the president of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, says.

Johnson says wolves have great spiritual meaning to Ojibwe people, but he says the tribe also recognizes the role wolves play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

“Now that they’re taking all these wolves, they’re calling for a special hunt for CWD,” he says. “They want a special hunt to hunt deer that are sick, to euthanize them, but that was the wolf’s part of our ecosystem to do that for us.”

This is part of why members of the Lac du Flambeau tribe are so concerned about overhunting wolves.

Wisconsin hunters killed almost double the quota of wolves set for the spring season.

Those in favor of the hunt argue the wolf population in Wisconsin has grown too large and is threatening livestock and pets.

However, many tribal members disagree.

They believe Wisconsin should not hold a fall hunt, and they say treaty rights should guarantee them a voice on the subject.

Johnson says the U.S. guaranteed Ojibwe tribes rights in exchange for taking their land, but those rights aren’t being honored in this instance.

“We want some answers,” he says. “Why they’re not listening to the tribes. We have federal treaty rights and they’re not adhering to them.”

The Ojibwe tribes aren’t the only tribes that feel this way.

Last week, dozens of tribes from across the country sent a letter to Haaland asking her to relist wolves as an endangered or threatened species.

That letter was signed by Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and the Association on American Indian Affairs, along with several other groups.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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