Greeting my fellow Anishinaabe and my Relatives
My Anishinaabe spirit-name is Everyday, I belong to the Bear Clan, and I am from the Red Lake Nation.
My English name is Robert DesJarlait and I am the Director of Protect Our Manoomin. Protect Our Manoomin is an Anishinaabe grassroots organization that provides education and outreach on issues regarding wild rice and sulfide mining in Minnesota. Protect Our Manoomin stands in solidarity with the Northwoods Wolf Alliance on the issue of the wolf hunt in Minnesota. And we recognize the various groups and citizens who are here today and are involved in the effort to stop the wolf hunt and save the wolf.
Today, we come here in diversity, yet we come for a common cause, and that common cause is to speak for those who can’t speak. We come here to speak for the wolf.
In my language, the wolf is called Ma’iingan. The relationship between the Anishinaabe people and ma’iingan is thousands of years old.
Our history is recounted in our oral traditions. Through our stories, we know about our relationships with the natural world. The story of Original Man and Ma’iingan reaffirms our connections to one of our closest relatives – the wolf.
Long ago, Gichi-Manidoo (the Creator) created Aki (the Earth), the plants, the animals, and, lastly, human beings. The first human placed on Earth was called Anishinaabe (or Original Man). After being placed on the Earth, Original Man wandered for many days. One thing Original Man noticed was that unlike animals and birds, he was alone. He spoke to the Creator and said:
“Grandfather, why is it all the animals and the birds come in pairs? Why am I alone?
And the Creator said: “I am going to send you a companion. Together you will wander on the Earth and name all the things you see.”
The Creator sent Ma’iingan – the wolf – to walk with Original Man. Together, they traveled over the Earth and gave names to animals and birds, to plants and trees, and to rivers and lakes. And after many years, they returned to where their journey began.
Then the Creator said: “You will now walk separate but parallel paths. What happens to one will happen to the other.”
In their separate lives, Original Man and Ma’iingan were alike. They had families that they raised with love and strong family values. Original Man lived in a clan, and Ma’iingan lived in a pack. The plants provided them with medicine, forests provided shelter, and animals provided food.
And, like the Creator told them, they shared the same fate. Ma’iingan was hunted for his fur, and Original Man was hunted for his hair. Their existence was considered an impediment by the colonizers; therefore they were shot, murdered, and forced off their land.
This was the path and the fate that the Anishinaabe and Ma’iingan shared together. Today, we share a similar fate. And that fate is tied to mining.
In 2008, Polymet released its Environmental Impact Study. The study focuses on specific areas that will be impacted by its mine. In the section on Wildlife, Polymet states that a wolf pack lives within a designated critical habitat located near the mine at Hoyt Lakes, and the pack will suffer a loss and fragmentation of habitat because of mining activity. Polymet states that this pack will migrate into Superior National Forest or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Like in the past, Ma’iingan is being forced from his land. Of course, Polymet doesn’t deem this as critical to the survival of the wolf. And, as Polymet states in their study, the life expectancy of their mine is 40 years, after which, the wolf can return to its former habitat. The question is – what will remain of that habitat that will have been exposed to 40 years of toxins and pollution.
One thing that the Polymet study doesn’t address is the expansion of copper mining in Minnesota. According to mining exploration maps, mining companies plan to build mines that begin on the shores of Anishinaabe-gichigami (Lake Superior) and extend far into the interior of northern and central Minnesota. If the Polymet mine is going to affect the loss of wolf habitat in Hoyt Lakes, what will be the loss of wolf habitat if mining occurs all across northern and central Minnesota? Where will Ma’iingan go?
The Anishinaabe share a similar fate. And that loss will be a loss of habitat for hunting, fishing, and harvesting wild rice on ceded land that is protected under our treaty rights. Like Ma’iingan, our food sustenance will be diminished, and the animals that migrate away from the mining will leave few animals to sustain our traditional diet that is essential to our health and well-being.
The relationship between the Anishinaabe and Ma’iingan, and all the other animals as well, extends beyond the story of Original Man.
In our belief system, wolves and animals have a special place. All animals have a close connection with Mother Earth and with plants. Each animal and bird species is endowed with unique powers that were given to them by the Creator at the time of the Creation. Through the gifts that were given to them by the Creator, animals possess and reflect their inner being, their soul-spirit.
At the time when the Anishinaabe lived on the shores of the Great Salt Waters – the Atlantic coast – the Creator sent seven animals to teach us how to govern ourselves and how to build our social structure. The seven original animals were the Crane, Loon, Fish, Bear, Martin, Deer, and Birds. These were our original clans. As the Anishinaabe multiplied, more clans were added, including the wolf.
All Anishinaabe people belong to a clan. Their clan heritage is passed on to them through their father. Our clan animal is our kin relative. The quality and character of the animal is passed on to us. For example, the character of Wolf clan people is perseverance and guardianship; the character of Beal clan people is strength and courage. Although the structure of our communities is no longer based on the clan system, our clan animals continue to shape and form who we are as individuals. Our clan continues to provide us with self-identity and guides us in our roles in our communities.
Our elders teach us about the Four Orders of Life. Aki – Mother Earth – is the first order, followed by plants, then animals and, lastly, human beings. The Earth, plants, and animals can exist without human beings. But, human beings cannot exist without the Earth, plants, and animals.
When we look at what is happening to our brother, Ma’iingan, we see ourselves. When we see the blood of a murdered wolf, it is our blood. When we see the paw of a wolf in a trap, it is our hand in a trap. When the fur of a wolf removed, our flesh is removed.
This is the fate that the Anishinaabe face. And it is a fate that everyone here faces. This is about more than the hunting and killing of wolves. The name of the game is ecocide. Those who oppose the wolf hunt or sulfide mining are labeled as environmental terrorists. But we are not the terrorists. We are here to protect those that can’t speak. Through our actions, we must seek to restore the Four Orders of Life. That is our duty and responsibility. Because without them, we cannot exist.
Mii sa go