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Native American tribes sue Wisconsin to stop planned gray wolf hunt

<i>Dawn Villella/AP</i><br/>Six Native American tribes are suing the state of Wisconsin
Dawn Villella/AP
Six Native American tribes are suing the state of Wisconsin

By Leah Asmelash, CNN

Six Native American tribes are suing the state of Wisconsin, claiming that the state’s planned wolf hunts go against their treaty-protected rights.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday by six Ojibwe tribes, comes months after the state’s first legal wolf hunt in decades in February, considered a disaster by critics. That hunt occurred following the removal of wolves from the federal list of endangered species in January, with a hunting quota of 200 wolves. Because of treaty rights assigned to the Ojibwe tribes, the quota was divided between the state and the tribes, with 119 wolves allocated to Wisconsin for hunting, and 81 wolves to the tribes.

But those numbers were quickly abandoned, after hunters who weren’t affiliated with the tribes killed 218 wolves over the course of three days — almost 100 more than allowed. The hunt was initially supposed to last a full week.

Now, the state is gearing up for its second wolf hunt of the year in November. And though the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources recommended a quota of just 130 wolves, the state’s Natural Resources Board approved a hunt of 300 wolves, a representative for the department confirmed to CNN.

The Department of National Resources said it was currently reviewing the lawsuit and did not have further comment at this time.

“In our treaty rights, we’re supposed to share with the state 50-50 in our resources and we’re feeling that we’re not getting our due diligence because of the slaughter of wolves in February,” said John Johnson, Sr., the president of Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, in a statement. “The out of state hunters are petitioning the courts just so they can hunt, not to protect the resources.”

CNN emailed the state’s Department of Justice office for comment on the lawsuit, but did not immediately receive a response.

Though the wolves are no longer an endangered species, as of April 2020 there were only as many as 1,057 in the state, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

In Ojibwe traditions, though, humans and wolves are sacred companions — created to be a partner to man similar to how women were created in Christian traditions.

“To the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe), the Ma’iingan are our brothers,” said Marvin Defoe, Red Cliff Tribe’s representative on the Voigt Inter-Tribal Task Force, in a statement. “The legends and stories tell us as brothers we walk hand in hand together. What happens to the Ma’iingan happens to humanity.”

Michael Isham, an executive administrator for the intertribal agency Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission, called the February wolf hunt, along with the planned November hunt, “reckless.”

“The DNR Natural Resources Board made clear that its decision to set the wolf quota at 300 has nothing to do with science or stewardship,” he said in a statement last month.

The situation in Wisconsin mirrors one happening across the country, as other tribes push for the protection of wolves and restoring them to the Endangered Species list once more.

Earlier this month, multiple tribes from around the country wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland calling for gray wolves to be protected again, citing President Joe Biden’s executive order signed in January, recommitting the Federal government to the Tribal Nations.

“This would allow for the Biden Administration to not only show its commitment to Indian Country, but the proper time to correct a wrong birthed by the previous administration,” the letter read. “The delisting of the gray wolf without tribal consultation is a stain that we are certain you don’t want to preserve under your leadership.”

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