Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

August 31, 1988
Animals in their proper place

“Animals in their proper place,” the August 23 Bemidji Pioneer captions a picture of a Japanese sika deer at the zoo.  The picture shows a prisoner in an alien land.  The deer is confined, “under control,” “owned” (bought and paid for with paper dollars).  Proper place?  In a zoo?  In the White man’s way of thinking, maybe the proper place for wildlife is behind bars.  To the Indian, the proper place for deer and other wildlife is in the forest, what little forest we still have.

In the public-relations interview with the D.N.R. published on August 23, the D.N.R. wildlife “specialist” advises people to leave baby animals alone.  She does not talk about the many thousands of animals hit by cars and left to die by the roadside.  She does not talk about the enormous numbers of animals that are killed or injured by fee-paying D.N.R.-licensed hunters, trappers, and scientists every year.  She also does not talk about the effect that cutting the forests, chemicals, and surface/groundwater pollution have on animals.  At the rate that our environment is being destroyed, in just a few years, there won’t be any wildlife, no matter what kind of “endangered species legislation,” state programs, and public relations there are.  Blaming people who keep bears in the spare bedroom is nonsense.  [People who keep bare in the bedroom and create overpopulation is another matter.]  The dominant society should look at “Grizzly Adams” and the other wildlife fantasies funded by the Feudal corporate structure that is plundering the land, if people are so alienated from the natural world that gives all of us life.  Who else would keep a deer in a garage, or in a zoo?

In Feudal Europe, deer and other game are kept in “parks” where only the nobility are allowed to hunt.  The Game-Keeper is a part of the Feudal social structure; he/she protects the wildlife for the exclusive use of the upper classes.  When the Europeans emigrated to Indian land, they brought their European Feudal thinking patterns and ways of organizing society with them.  In Minnesota, the GameKeeper And guides) are a large number of civil servants; they are called the D.N.R.

Northern Minnesota’s forests have been stripped, clear-cut.  This Indian land was majestic forests abundant with wildlife fifty years ago.  Now, moose-hunting is only by lottery.  In a few more years, deer and duck hunting will also be by lottery.  In Feudal Europe, the Nobility and Corporate Magnates who succeeded the Feudal Lords openly acknowledge their identity.  The U.S.A. depends on myths of “democracy” and “the working man”; but even now only the nobility and their henches the corporate executives and politicians can go moose-hunting when they want to—along with the GameKeepers they own.

The Grygla Elk experienced typical White-man management of Indian resources.  After the D.N.R. made money selling elk hunting licenses, we never hear any more about the elk.  We never hear any more from the farmers in Grygla (which is unceded and not paid for, and still belongs to Red Lake people).  Maybe the D.N.R. made them honorary Game-Keepers, Guides and Fire Wardens.  The Red Lake Tribal Council, whatever they did regarding the elk, is sitting in the White man’s camp: they are an organization created by the U.S.A.’s 1934 Indian Reorganization Act; are subordinate to the White man’s government—bought and paid for—and are not to be confused with the traditional Chiefs council of the Red Lake Ojibway Nation, who signed the 1863 Treaty.

All of the wildlife, water, and land that the D.N.R. claims belongs to the White man is not theirs, it belongs to the Indian people.  We have always been the care-takers; we have never had Feudal Grounds-keepers or Game-keepers.  Indian people kept these entire continents so that everyone had an abundance: of food as well as beauty.  The reason that the D.N.R. made Oscar the otter go to the zoo had very little to do with Oscar’s welfare—and the State of Minnesota and the corporations were enforcing their Feudal claim to “own” the wildlife of the Indian nations.  The otter was caught in a trap: who was allowed to set out-of-season traps?  Is “protecting” wildlife allowing trapping, but taking pets away from children?  The otter was a free creature and should have been allowed to stay voluntarily in the home she chose, with the family that saved her life.

Manifest Destiny was in full force when major encroachment legislation was passed by the U.S. Congress and set the stage for our present situation.  These nineteenth-century encroachment and genocide laws are still on the books of the United States Government, and they are still violating Indian civil and human rights.  In the White man’s arrogance, he never thought that Indian people would understand his language and study his Feudal culture.  The White colonizers have given themselves some beautiful labels: the State of Minnesota has taken the Indian Moccasin-flower and in a racist way calls it the Lady Slipper.  They have taken the sacred Eagle of the Indian people, and made it the national emblem,.  More than half of what the average White eats in a day is Indian food—but we don’t get any credit.  The White man has taken so much, and has never given anything of value back to the Indian people.  But, the Ojibway people will still give the White man a gift—providing he takes good care of it.  We give the Blue Jay as the emblem of the State of Minnesota and the United States Government.  Minnesota used to claim the loon, but after actions like tying to “buy” Indian hunting and fishing rights, the Blue Jay is more appropriate.  He calls it like it is, and to the aliens who are stealing our resources and destroying our permaculture, he says, “thief, thief.”

Francis Blake

Blue jays helping themselves to the dogs’ food, Winter 1996-7

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