As a Native American, I actively practice a traditional way of life inherited from a lineage that goes back thousands of years. I take great offense at hearing Anglo-American descendants of immigrants, bragging that they are 4th or 5th generation ranchers, and asserting self-proclaimed and imaginary rights to grazing our “traditional sacred and cultural forest lands.”
In the last 150 years, the land that became home for the Western United States, has been home to Native American people. Our ancestral ties to the lands of North America go back at least 20,000 years — a thousand generations. Euro-American immigrants are comparative newcomers to the West, and behave with an unjustified pride and arrogance. Considering the track record of the great-great-grandfathers of 5-generation ranchers, whom were active participants in the perpetual genocide of Indigenous Americans or who stood by with silent assent, they can be compared to current behaviors and actions of what’s now happening to Indigenous wildlife.
In Washington state and throughout western North America, these selfsame ranchers have been illegitimately grandfathered in to letting their cattle and sheep graze off private lands. In my opinion, if a rancher’s own land can’t support his animals by itself, they should be prohibited from owning any more livestock.
Then add insult to injury, state and federal agencies hire helicopters with shotgun hitmen to do the dirty work for them, yes, “a shotgun without a scope,” as reported by Donny Martorello on a phone conference with us. At times, the poor animal only gets wounded resulting in a slow and excruciating painful death while the American taxpayer pays for all of it.
In reality, any 4th or 5th (or even 6th or 7th) generation rancher is still a descendant of immigrants and traces of that heritage and legacy upon the American landscape resembles the same hostile takeover, which in wildlife terms, is comparable to an invasive species.
Traditional Indigenous peoples have a deep spiritual connection with the land that appears to have no counterpart in Euro-American ranching culture. Western ranchers commonly assert a level of privilege and entitlement that is as illegitimate as it is arrogant. The religious perspectives of many Anglo-American westerners are best described as “dominionistic.” They believe the land and its native plants and animals were placed here solely for their benefit and exploitation. By contrast, our traditional view is that we are the caretakers for all of our children’s resources which include all four-legged and winged-ones that exist on Mother Earth.
Colville National Forest representative Travis Fletcher, has refused to discuss numerous petitions to remove livestock as a measure to solve wolf-livestock conflicts at any of the numerous Washington Wolf Advisory Group (WAG) meetings we have attended. Travis Fletcher himself has told us that these allotments can be closed if it is in the best interest of the wildlife or the public.
The Organization that I volunteer for, Protect The Wolves, represents 57,900 individuals who are and have been requesting the closure of the offending grazing allotments since 2016.
According to the Capital Press, the LeClerc allotments closure request by the Kalispel Tribe was approved by Colville National Forest Supervisor, Rodney Smoldon, then denied by Regional Forester Jim Pena 2 days later.
The Public needs to know that this gross misuse of public land is not only expensive, but also a direct Violation of not only Indigenous Rights, but as well the rights of the Public when it comes to protecting Our Children’s Resources with protections available under the Indian and Public Trusts.
Keeping just the LeClerc allotment open will cost the taxpayer almost $675,000, as reported by the Capital Press, a livestock industry trade publication. Ranchers profit from public funding and on public lands — taxpayer dollars and their refusal to honor the constitutional right of land for traditional and cultural practices.
Wolves are every bit as sacred as the grizzly to traditional First Nations people from countless tribes. These majestic “real native westerners” deserve far greater respect and deference than do newcomers in cowboy hats.
Roger Dobson is an enrolled member of the Cowlitz tribe, and is Director of Tribal Cultural Relations for “Protect The Wolves”, a Native American religious 501(c)(3) organization, online at protectthewolves.com.