The Grand Teacher or The Big Bad Wolf

Can Native American activism and ancient wisdom save the wolves? Source

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Last summer Roger Dobson, a tribal spokesman for advocacy group Protect the Wolves, spent two months in Yellowstone observing and videotaping 911M, an old pepper-gray wolf with sparkling eyes. He watched the blacktail alpha male of the Junction Butte pack uncharacteristically introduce another male into his pack to breed with the females.
Dobson observed him watch his pack with the wisdom of an old sage. Later that year, after a valiant fight and several injuries, Prospect Peak wolves killed 911M.
After three wolves from the pack were harvested in late 2016, and another disappeared, the Junction Butte pack was only seen sporadically and it was difficult to identify its wolves.
Dobson says a turning point for him as an activist was when he videotaped outfitters riding right by the den where the Junction Butte pack lived in Yellowstone. “They were within 75 feet of the den, which is illegal, and their horses were loose, but they didn’t receive a ticket or get banned,” he said. A district park ranger called them 30 times, and Dobson asserts, “they saw the missed calls but claimed their phone never rang.” He believes this is what drove the pack out of the area to create another den, which had a negative impact on the size and health of the pack.
“It’s disgusting,” Dobson said, “what people—ranchers and hunters—get away with.” He said a lot of Native Americans believe in protecting wolves but don’t want to be outspoken or ruffle feathers. But a true activist, he said, doesn’t sugar coat the issues or compromise integrity by allowing rich outfitters to get away with disturbing a wolf sanctuary. When they’re “in bed” with the local politicians and ranchers who have donated to advocacy groups that play “both sides of the fence,” then prominent wolf experts support management plans that put ranchers ahead of wildlife and treat wolves like “pests.”
Dobson said he has received more than 100 death threats, but it doesn’t bother him. He told one caller, “We’ll just meet in the woods and handle this the old Indian way,” and never heard from him again.
Native American traditions depict the wolf as a “grand teacher” and sage who returns after many years upon a sacred path to relay knowledge and wisdom to the tribe. Their sacredness is extolled by people who study the natural world. “The gaze of the wolf reaches into your soul,” wrote naturalist and author Barry Lopez.
Indeed, wolves are important in the history of almost all Native American tribes. They are considered closely related to humans, and loyal to their packs and mate. In Shoshone mythology, the wolf plays the role of the noble creator. Some tribes have wolf clans, and there are wolf dances, totem poles with wolf carvings, and clan crests for tribes of the Northwest Coast, such as the Tlingit and Tsimshian.
In contrast, Western folklore has a different outlook with stories like Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs. American idioms, too, illustrate a notion counter to what Native Americans believe: “Throw you to the wolves”; “A wolf in sheep’s clothing”; and Don’t “put one’s head in the wolf’s mouth.”
In Native American teaching, the wolf embodies wisdom, courage and faith. The material world is comprised of relentless sorrows and difficulties, and to overcome them one must trust in a higher spirit. The wolf is a symbol of that spirit on earth, as is the grizzly and the owl. But Western ideology tends to separate the human spirit from the earth and its creatures. It is a dichotomy that has fueled the debate about who gets control of what land and who has the right to hunt what animal. To read full article click here.

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Featured image: NPS / Jim Peaco