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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Teaching stories, part 11


Updated: August 22, 2018

Belt buckle ontworpen door trouwringen smid Zhaawano Giizhik aka Tammo Galtjo Geertsema


Today, we heard that the descendants of our ancestors, the Anishinaabeg from Michigan, are increasingly nervous about what’s happening to an important, if not essential, piece of their heritage and culture: Ma'iingan, the Great Lakes gray wolf

In December 2012, after Michigan state politicians rushed a "lame duck" bill through the House and Senate, Governor Snyder signed legislation into law that would designate wolves a "game species" and authorize NRC (Natural Resources Commission) to establish a wolf hunting season.

The Native nations of Michigan, who are among the most vocal opponents of the proposed hunting season, are determined to block this legislation that has passed in December last year. Not only do they believe that there is a direct parallel between the eradication of wolves from Michigan and the decline of its Native populations, the proposed hunting season touches a legal nerve as well since a treaty signed in 1836 implicates that the state has a legal obligation to give the Ojibwe and Odaawaa "tribes" an equal say in the management of the wolf and other wildlife species. By joining the Humane Society and other wildlife advocates in a petition drive, representatives of these Nations try to put the issue on a statewide ballot in 2014.

The Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign had hoped to gather 225,000 signatures by March 27. To date, they’ve gathered almost 254.000!

The proposed harvest for the Michigan hunting season is said to be 47 wolves: 21 wolves from Wolf Management Unit A (see link for detailed description and map) in Western Gogebic County, 18 for WMU B (portions of counties in the Western Upper Peninsula), and 8 for WMU C in portions of Luce and Mackinac Counties in the Eastern UP. A total of 1,200 people (!) have been licensed to participate in the hunt taking place in three Upper Peninsula zones.

November 15, 2013, was the start of the wolf hunt in the state's Upper Peninsula. The season runs through December, unless the maximum kill of 43 is reached beforehand. 

Michigan, however, is not the only state that faces aggressive, systematic hunting of the grey wolf.

As the recent delisting of the wolf by the US Fish and Wildlife Service has been met with support by several major hunting groups and northern politicians, the delisting of an endangered species exactly in a region proposed for an aggressive minerals exploitation seems to be all too convenient for the Great Lakes mining corporations. Tribal governments of  the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as well as the l854 Treaty Authority and the GLIFWC tribal leadership, representing eleven Ojibwe "tribes" across the three states, oppose the delisting, and meanwhile in Minnesota, wolf sanctuaries have been created by Gaa-waabaabiganikaag and Miskwaagamiiwi-zaaga'igan (White Earth and Red Lake reservations).


Wolf harvesting in Minnesota

Ma'iingan wolf

February last year, an artist friend wrote something on my Facebook wall that immediately caught my attention. She alerted me to the grim future of - estimately 800 - wolves that live inside the borders of WISCONSIN State.

Republican state lawmakers, the message said, are moving ahead with a plan, called Bill 411, that would let people use weapons and hunting dogs (no, there's nothing wrong with your eyes) to hunt grey wolves. The move comes less than two months after wolves were delisted as an endangered species in Wisconsin. 

The bill is aimed at promoting an annual hunt four and a half months of the year using traps, guns, and any type of bow. It is aimed at night shooting, running dogs and using traps on the wolves. Both state residents and non-residents may be issued a license; the bureaucratic term designated to the kill is wolf harvesting.

When my artist friend tells me something I usually pay attention - after all, she is a descendant in a 500-year line of Ojibwe chiefs -, but this time her message really raised my antennae. These are the words she wrote on my wall: 

The wind remains, the sky remains. 
Let us not upset the balance of nature by man's intervention.

Of course, my friend is absolutely right. If we treat honorable and useful creatures like the wolves like this, we might as well kill the wind and the sky.

Not only is the wolf an indispensable chain in the ecosystem, he has been an elder brother and a teacher to humankind since time immemorial. Therefore he deserves our honor and our protection; certainly not to be hunted down by dogs. 

Or to be shot like one for that matter.

Or to be ensnared as if he were a muskrat.

And all this for causing local hunters "problems" to hunt for raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, and bear?

Vigorously supported by a local hunters' lobby? Who complain about "the anti-humanist green movement that views wolves not as the large predators they are, but as some sort of symbol of their reverence for nature"? Backed by Tea Party-related bloggers who talk of "agressive wolves...targeting humans as prey" and state that "wolf hunting has been blocked largely by people who have no conception of Nature"?

Come again?

"Agressive wolves targeting humans as prey"?

"The anti-humanist green movement"?

"People who have no conception of Nature"?

Give me a break.

Who's the agressor here and who's the prey? These recreational, so-called "hunters" should have a talk with the Native Americans, who have lived in the area and dealt with nature and wolves - sometimes very agressive wolves - LONG before their European ancestors first arrived to take over the place.

They should have consulted them first.


In the beginning of time

Makinaak Ma'iingan Gaye jewelry by ZhaawanArt Unieke Trouwringen
"In the beginning of time, the Creator made Anishinaabe, the original man, and his brother Ma’iingan, the wolf. 
Together, they walked the Earth naming all of the other creatures on the planet.
There came a time when the Creator said the two must live apart but warned that whatever happened to one would happen to the other. 
To this day, the wolf howls in mourning for the loss of his friend, Anishinaabe."*

There is an old and honorable Anishinaabe aphorism that says: 
"Our people and the wolves are the same. What happens to the wolf, happens to us." Like the wolves, Ojibwe Anishinaabe communities have struggled throughout the centuries for survival. The health and survival of the people have always been inseperably linked to that of the wolf. Therefore, technical terms used by state officials like "wolf harvesting," "population caps," or "minimum viable poulations" are offensive to Ojibweg people - to them, these phrases sound as if they pertain to their own demographic situation or the future of their own communities



Many traditional stories of the Anishinaabeg relate of the important role that MA'IINGAN, or "He Who Makes Strange Noises," has played in the lives of the People since the beginning of times. To this day the elders of various Ojibwe communities tell stories that link Ma'iingan to Wiinabozho, or Wiisagejaak as he is called in the northern country, who is also known as Original Man, a beloved semi-supernatural trickster and benefactor of the Anishinaabe Peoples. In fact, according to oral history, it was the Great Mystery, called Gichi-manidoo, who sent the wolf to keep Wiinabozho company while walking around Creation.


He who walks the Earth

So important is Wolf that he even plays a role in the creation of the earth, as AKI-BIMOSE: "HE WHO WALKS THE EARTH."

Bracelet design by Zhaawano Giizhik Unieke Trouwringen
When GICHI-MANIDOO, after a big flood that once swept the planet, was re-creating the earth on top of the back shield of a giant Turtle, he ordained Wolf to run round the circumference and spread soil that Muskrat brought up from the bottom of the sea. Thus Wolf enlarged the land until Turtle Island (North America) had gained its present form.

One story relates how Wiinabozho, the original man, who at one time longed for companionship, adopted Ma'iingan as his brother. Since then, the two brothers had many adventures together tricking one another. Both had the power of shapeshifting; this means that they often transformed into any animal or human form. Although it was Wiinabozho who was the most daring and imaginative of the two, it was Wolf who often guided Wiinabozho and taught him valuable lessons of wisdom.

"So, First Man and Ma'iingan walked the Earth and came to know all of her. In this journey they became very close to each other. They became like brothers. In their closeness they realized that they were brothers to all of the Creation. When they had completed the task that GICHI-MANIDOO asked them to do, they talked with the Creator once again. GICHI-MANIDOO said, "From this day on, you are to separate your paths. You must go your different ways." 

"What shall happen to one of you will also happen to the other. Each of you will be feared, respected and misunderstood by the people that will later join you on this Earth."

Quoted freely from Edward Benton Banaise's "The Mishomis Book" *


So this is how big this land will be..

Another story linking Wolf to the creation of the world was told by George Peequaquat of northern Saskatchewan. It was taken from the book  'Bits of Dough, Twigs of Fire' by Nick Johnson.

"This is a story about Wiisagejaak we call him. He walks throughout the land. He wasn't too pleased with himself. This earth of ours, flooded, he called the muskrat to dive down to get a piece of earth. So really the muskrat brought some for him. He dried it and blew it. After he blew it they were on an island. The next time he blew it he couldn't see across or how big the island was. And again he blew it, he made a wolf. Then he told him to run around to see how big our land was. He was away for four nights, then he came back, then he said this land of ours would be too small. He blew it again, the earth. Then he sent the wolf off again to run around it. Now he was away for four weeks this time, that wolf. He said the earth was still too small... So again he blew the earth. Then finally after fourteen years he got back. He was a very old wolf after fourteen years of running. So this is how big this land will be, that's how he finished."

Stories like the ones above reflect how much humankind is indebted to the wolf. The stories also shed light on how much the ancestors were aware of the humanlike characteristics of wolves and the social, basically non-violent personalities they possess.

Wolves are renowned for their perseverance, guardianship, humbleness and strength. They are friendly toward each other and, like the most of us, devoted to only one mate. 

They live in organized packs just like us. They are social and intelligent creatures like you and I. 

Their footprints have always run parallel to those of our ancestors.

Now they want to kill our four-footed relative just because his presence spoils their precious hunting fun? They want to do this under the cover of night? By using guns, traps and hunting dogs?

Once this unholy plan to "harvest" grey wolves is approved, it won't be long before human's ugly footprint is the only mark that's left on the face of the earth. And whose company was it, according to legend, that the Original Man Wiinabozho sought when he felt lonely?



So, please join the cause

Wisconsin WOLVES - STOP Senate Bill 411 and click here.

Keep Michigan Grey Wolves Protected: click here.

Read the article in Indian Country about actress Jessica Lange urging Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to 
suspend the state-sanctioned wolf hunt. 


P.S. Good news! A new wolf bill has been heard by the MN Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Tuesday March 11, 2014. Authored by Senator Foung Hawj, Senate File 2256 introduced a new wolf management plan with updated requirements to protect our wolf population. In a week that brought news of the aerial gunning of wilderness wolves in 2 western states, we're happy to share progress in MN. 

Read Senate File 2256

See also:

White Earth Land Recovery Project

2018 updates:

Gray wolf harvest in Wisconsin update 2017/2018The gray wolf in the western Great Lakes region is currently on the Federal Endangered Species List. This listing status limits the state of Wisconsin's management authority including the authority to hold a wolf harvest season.

June 2018: Rule to Allow Hunting Could Doom Rare Red Wolves in eeastern North Carolina.


* Benton-Banai, Edward. The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway. Hayward, WI: Indian Country Communications, 1988.


Jewelry shown on this page:


Illustrations and jewelry photography by ZhaawanArt Unieke Trouwringen. 'Makinaak Ma'iingan Gaye / Turtle And Wolf '- sterling silver, yellow gold, turquoise & red coral hair pin: jewelry by ZhaawanArt.


> Read part 12 in the Teaching Stories: The Cycle of Life.


Aki-egwaniizid miinawaa Zhaawano Giizhik/Wenoondaagoziwid Webaashi


About the authors/artists:

Simone McLeod (her traditional name is Aki’-egwaniizid, which is an Ojibwe name meaning "Earth Blanket") is a Cree/Anishinaabe painter and poet, born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1962. She belongs to he Name doodem (Sturgeon clan). Simone, who feels special kinship with her mother's people, the Azaadiwi-ziibi Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Poplar River First Nation) of Manitoba, descends from a long line of Midewiwin seers and healers and artists. Her artwork has been appreciated by several art collectors and educational and health care institutions from Canada, as well as by art lovers from all over the world.

Zhaawano Giizhik, an American currently living in the Netherlands, was born in 1959 in North Carolina, USA. Zhaawano has Anishinaabe blood running through his veins; the doodem of his ancestors from Baawiting (Sault Ste. Marie, Upper Michigan) is Waabizheshi, Marten. As an artist and a writer and a jewelry designer, Zhaawano draws on the oral and pictorial traditions of his ancestors. In doing so he sometimes works together with kindred artists. He has done several art projects with Simone and hopes to continue to do so in the future.


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