Staff from the SCI Foundation’s Conservation program attended the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society’s (NAFWS) 34th annual conference last week in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The meeting was hosted by the Oneida Nation, which provided attendees with delicious meals of bison and walleye from the tribe’s farm.
SCI Foundation has partnered with several Native American tribes over the years through the sale of conservation auction tags. Proceeds from the sale of these hunting tags benefit the conservation mission of SCI Foundation as well as funding the conservation program of the partner tribes.
Several interesting conservation topics were on the agenda for this year’s NAFWS conference, including the impact of wildlife diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease, the spread and impact of invasive and non-native species such as feral swine, feral horses and burros and feral dogs, mitigation of wolf depredation, and the impact of climate change on wildlife.
SCI Foundation staff presented an overview of our North American conservation program and discussed a variety of ways that SCI Foundation could potentially partner with Native American tribes on conservation issues such as working together to prevent poaching, conducting wildlife research and applied management, and increasing the scope of our conservation auction tags program.
Hunting and fishing are key elements of Native American culture, and many of the 567 federally recognized tribes in America have hunting and fishing rights enshrined by treaties with the United States government. For many Native Americans, hunting is not only a pastime and important cultural practice, it is exercising treaty rights as a sovereign nation within the United States.
Conservation of natural resources on tribal land is a complex issue and faces many challenges. Tribes, for example, do not receive Pittman-Robertson funds that states receive—funds which provide the bulk of conservation dollars for state agencies. In most cases, states have no authority on tribal lands, meaning tribes themselves must perform all of the functions of the typical state wildlife agencies such as monitoring wildlife populations and regulating hunting seasons.
The NAFWS conference featured several presentations that highlighted the positive ways that tribes work cooperatively with state and federal agencies on conservation issues. In Wisconsin, for example, the USDA’s Wildlife Services branch works closely with the state Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin’s 11 federally recognized tribes on wolf depredation. When a wolf is found to have killed livestock within a six mile radius of tribal land, the tribe’s wildlife biologist is consulted before a plan of action is taken.
Wolves, known as ma’iingan in the Ojibwe language, hold special cultural significance to many people of the Great Lakes region. Traditionally, wolves are considered to be a brother to humans, and killing them is taboo. Thus, lethal control of problem wolves is considered an option of last resort to many tribes.
The host Oneida Nation reminded participants that in the Iroquois tradition, people are responsible for protecting and conserving the earth for the next seven generations. This puts the responsibility of stewardship upon each generation to ensure that everyone does his part to conserve wildlife and natural resources.
With the strong mutual interest in hunting, fishing and conservation, Native Americans are natural allies and partners of SCI Foundation and we look forward to continuing to strengthen this partnership for years to come so that we all do our part to conserve nature for the next seven generations.
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