Earthjustice is back in court today on behalf of six Ojibwe tribes seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Wisconsin from holding a wolf hunt in November. The motion asks the judge to hold a hearing before the planned hunt slated to begin on Nov. 6.
This motion is part of the tribes’ lawsuit filed Sept. 21 in the Western District of Wisconsin against the state claiming the proposed hunt violates the tribes’ treaty rights. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved a quota of 300 wolves, ignoring the recommendations of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and willfully acting to nullify the Ojibwe Tribes’ share of wolves which the tribes seek to protect. Even the lower quota of 130 wolves recommended by the Department has no grounding in sound biological principles because, in developing the recommended quota, the Department failed to obtain a population estimate of the Wisconsin wolves that are remaining after a rushed hunt held in February.
During that three-day hunt, non-Indian hunters killed at least 218 wolves, including all of the Ojibwe tribes’ share in violation of the tribes’ treaty rights. Neither the Board nor the Department has made any changes to the management of the hunt to prevent a repeat of February’s disastrous overkill of wolves. Scientists estimate that a third of all wolves in Wisconsin have been killed since federal delisting.
The following are statements from Earthjustice and tribal representatives from their declarations for the court:
“This case is about Wisconsin’s responsibility to protect and conserve the natural resources we all share,” said Gussie Lord, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Tribal Partnerships program. “The Ojibwe’s treaty rights guarantee them the ability to coexist with the natural world in the way that they believe is appropriate and necessary to sustain the future generations. Wisconsin does not have exclusive rights here. The state has set the stage for yet another violation of the Ojibwe’s treaty rights and we are asking the Court to step in and prevent that from happening.”
“Our treaties represent a way of life for our tribal people. Eroding and disregarding our treaties is unacceptable. We view violations of our treaty rights as hostile actions against our tribal sovereignty and the very lives of tribal people.” – From the declaration of Mike Wiggins, Jr., Chairman, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
“What happens to ma’iingan happens to Anishinaabe. What happens to the wolf happens to humanity. That is universal law. The ecosystem is all connected. That is the message the ma’iingan is giving to humanity. Look at what we are facing today — the fish are dying, the trees are dying, the climate is changing, the water is drying up. Look at what is going on with the earth — what is taking place. I believe ma’iingan is saying — pay attention.” – From the declaration of Marvin DeFoe, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
“The wolves are part of the ecosystem. The deer herds in Wisconsin are infected with Chronic Wasting Disease. When the wolves see the herd, they take the weak animals to try to keep the herd strong. We need strong deer herds, we need the body of the waawaashkeshi, to feed our families.” – From the declaration of Robert VanZile, Chairman, Sokaogon Chippewa Community.
“The Ojibwe that hunt, fish and gather, we take and give back. We are supposed to be looking out for the next seven generations. I try to do that by teaching my grandsons to just take what they need to survive. We teach our children this — when we know it is wrong to hunt, we do not hunt. We take a step back and assess the damage. We determine how we can help so we can have the animals, the plants, the fish, for our future.” – From the declaration of John Johnson, Sr., President, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.
Earthjustice represents the tribal nations Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.
The Ojibwe word for “wolf” is ma’iingan, for “white-tailed deer” is “waawaashkeshi,” and the word to describe the people of the Great Lakes region connected to this culture is Anishinaabe.
The tribes’ lawsuit accompanies an existing challenge by Earthjustice to the Trump administration’s decision to remove wolves from the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision against the advice of scientists who say wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of the places they once inhabited and need continued federal protections in order to survive and recover.
On Sept. 14, 2021, groups representing nearly 200 tribes signed a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland demanding the restoration of Endangered Species protections to wolves nationwide.