During the height of the struggle for Ojibwe spear fishing and treaty rights in the summer of 1989 several Indian, and non-Indian runners joined forces on the Anishinaabe Solidarity Relay. The run started, carrying an Eagle Feather staff made from sumac, at the Bear River pow wow, swung down to Rhinelander, across the Wisconsin River, east to Mole Lake, north to Crandon, Eagle River and Lac Vieu Desert, across US highway 2 to Bad River, Ashland, Red Cliff, south to Hayward, and west to St. Croix, then back east to Spooner and Stone Lake, finishing at the Honor the Earth pow wow on the Lac Courte Oreilles reserve.
We received a feather for the staff at every Ojibwe community we visited. I was one of the runners. When we arrived at our final destination at the Honor the Earth pow wow my feet were a bleeding red pulpy mass. A woman cleaned and bandaged my feet so I could dance the inter tribals. Later in the fall Ernie St. Germaine from Lac du Flambeau, who’d organized the run, came to the door of our cabin on the Sundstein Road near Eagle River, Wisconsin. I made some tea and corn bread. We visited about the run and some dreams he’d had about me. Finally, he said, “It’s very important for you to hunt the bear.”
These instructions did not become clear and coherent to me until a few years later, when I was transitioning from being a hunting and fishing guide to a public radio reporter. After witnessing a northern Wisconsin bear hunt with hounds I produced a four part series “Living with Bears” which included the lead story “The Day the Bear Died.”
Listen to Nick Vander Puy’s story “The Day the Bear Died” on Suncloud;
“The Day the Bear Died” eventually ran on National Public Radio’s flagship afternoon show “All Things Considered.” It was probably heard by more than 10 million listeners. Hundreds of people wrote to NPR about the story. The national award winning story led to my reporting job at WXPR Public Radio in Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Photograph: Spirit of the Bear Finnish Mythology, Instagram
The brutal outcome of the bear hunt with hounds led me to fast one year from hunting. During this time bears began to enter my dreams. I was led to study the sacred bear hunt in the Finnish epic poem “The Kalevala.”
I still hunt deer, rabbits, partridge and turkeys. I net fish and catch them on hook and line. I eat bear meat, use the bear’s grease, claws and teeth and fur. I knock wild rice and make maple sugar. I harvest plants.
And so the question, why do you oppose bear hunting with hounds?
What I’m about to share is from my own observations as a hunter and public radio reporter, along with some revelations from a another guy who used to hunt bears with hounds, but changed his ways. I cannot reveal this source because he’s already been threatened with violence for speaking his opinions. The level of disrespect in bear hunting with hounds astounds me at times…what makes me sad is there are so many that are not even willing to learn, and wouldn’t care if they did know. I have never seen a hound hunter ever pause and offer thanks of any kind.
I hate that a leading bear hound hunting advocate Sen. Tiffany from Hazelhurst used to have a mounted bear in his Madison office with a grenade in her mouth.
I HATE that these hound runners strap GPS units on their dogs, turn the dogs out on a track and go have coffee until noon to come back, drive in close, and shoot the bear. They are not even in the woods, let the GPS do the work…..
I HATE that in the training season, during the hottest time of the year, these dog runners target sows with cubs as they will run slower because of the cubs and will often make a stand and fight in defense of their cubs. The dog runners like this as it teaches the dogs to fight as a pack.
I HATE that many cubs are separated from their sow LONG before they are ready to be. Every year I have cubs here in the neighborhood that time of year getting into trouble in trash, and bird feeders, etc. It’s because of dog training……..I HATE that these dog hunters drop their hounds in the middle of the road when there are NO TRESPASSING signs on both sides. They laugh and say “dogs cant read signs”….
I HATE that the dog hunters often times “stalk” other hunters, like baiters and start their dogs off of their baits that they have spent months establishing……I HATE that in the dog community that poaching is some what of a accepted practice. They cut teeth and claws and harvest gall bladders to pay for their dog care and feed and leave the rest of the bear in the woods to rot…..I HATE that these dog hunters will purposely run their old dogs, or dogs that are not good hunters into wolf territory to get them killed. Then of course they get paid by the state for a “useless” dog…..
OH I forgot to mention something I personally witnessed while hound hunting in the U.P, not even any form of respect for their dogs…One dog had a stick jam in it’s eye during the chase. Popped the eyeball more or less, and was shot right there on the road and thrown in the ditch because “didn’t want to pay vet bills.”
I HATE that the bear hunting lobby and most bear hunters make war on the wolf which is sacred to the Anishinaabe, a true brother and representative of healthy, diverse land.
What is an alternative? Here’s mine.
One time I was making an offering on the summer solstice near Eagle River in the woods. About the moment the sun rose I put down tobacco near an oak tree.
About thirty seconds before the sun rose the singing birds in the forest became silent. At the moment the sun peered over the horizon I looked to my left and makwa (bear) was staring at me. He raised his left hand, ambled off and then he was gone…
All the best,
Nick Vander Pagan
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