The Biden Administration announced last month that he would not reinstate wolves on the endangered species list, despite requests from indigenous communities.
Wolves are sacred creatures to Native American Indians and hold significant status in almost all Native American tribes. In most indigenous cultures, the wolf is associated with characteristics such as courage, strength and loyalty. For many North American tribes, wolves, like bears, are considered closely related to humans. For some tribes in the northwest, wolves are an important part of their origin stories. The withdrawal of wolves, which could lead to the slaughter of the species, imposed our religious beliefs. President Joe Biden’s decision demonstrates that he will not respect the sovereignty and culture of tribal nations as promised.
For centuries, the history of relations between the federal government and Native American tribes has too often been a one-sided pattern of oppression and expulsion. Between 1777 and 1868, the federal government signed some 368 treaties which promised the protection of Indigenous sovereignty, respect for our ways of life and consultation with tribal nations in decisions affecting our communities. It was not a gratuitous promise, but a promise made in exchange for millions of acres abandoned by tribes across the country.
Although legally binding, the federal government has routinely violated treaties and trust agreements by enforcing policies that have dismantled our ways of life. As terrestrial people, the rocks and soil that form our landscapes, and the plants and animals that live there, are central to our belief systems and are the fabric that holds our communities together. Rather than respecting our way of life and honoring signed treaties, the government, without any tribal input, allowed oil and mining drilling, encouraged logging and decimated wildlife populations – ignoring the importance land and animals for tribal communities.
President Donald Trump continued this pattern of assault on Indigenous sovereignty and identity when he removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in 2020 without tribal consultation. This opened the doors for states to allow unrestricted wolf hunts – not surprising given his sons’ fondness for trophy hunting. Biden’s failure to right that wrong has now further repudiated the nation’s commitment to Indian Country. In less than a year, without the protections of the Endangered Species Act, states passed laws putting wolves at risk of extinction. A new law in idaho allows the culling of 90 percent of the state’s wolves this hunting season. In Montana, it’s 85%, and, in Wisconsin, wolf hunting exceeded state limits by nearly 100, with hunters killing 218 wolves in three days. Today, the wolf is functionally extinct in more than 80 percent of its historical rangewith only 6,000 survivors in the United States