IS NON-PROFIT “SAVE MINNESOTA MOOSE” DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD?


This blog post will be broken into 2 separate posts to address a couple issues I found with the Facebook page of the non-profit Save Minnesota Moose. One about treaty rights and the other about wolves. *For this post the tribes being referred to are Fond du Lac, Grand Portage and Bois Forte Bands

PART ONE: NON-PROFIT "SAVE MINNESOTA MOOSE" - TREATY RIGHTS

As many Minnesotans already know, our moose population has been declining for years. 

DNR Moose Survey from 2005 - 2019
Even with the steep decline in moose numbers the DNR did not call off state sanctioned hunting until 2013. 

As Minnesota moose population declines, DNR says annual hunt remains biologically sound

Minnesota's moose hunting season is history

Once the hunt was called off DNR researchers went to work looking for the reason why moose were dying at such a rapid rate and eventually determined the main cause to be a parasitic nematode called brain worm (round worm) commonly found in white-tailed deer. 

“After spending millions of dollars and tracking hundreds of moose with GPS collars, scientists have pinpointed the primary culprit behind the animal’s ever-shrinking numbers in Minnesota. It’s the deer. Parasites they carry into Minnesota’s North Woods have emerged as the leading cause of death for moose, state and tribal biologists have concluded."
A University of Minnesota scientist is now seeking funds to help with her research to unravel the mystery on which slugs and snails are carrying brain worm in hopes of figuring out how to prevent the moose from getting it. 



Back in 2013 an Eden Prairie woman by the name of Robin Johnson, became so concerned about the moose decline in Minnesota she decided to start a non-profit called Save Minnesota Moose

Shortly after starting her non-profit she opened up a Facebook page by the same name. In an interview with the Star Tribune back in 2013 she stated her purpose was to protect the animal she calls “Minnesota’s Wilderness Symbol.”  In an interview with Hometown Source she said she loves all animals but moose are her favorite. She held several fundraisers to raise funds for DNR moose researchers and became very vocal about her views on her Facebook page where she makes two things very clear:
  1. Because wolves eat moose she wants them hunted or their numbers diminished somehow.
  2. The public at large should help her in opposing American Indian treaty rights because she is upset they have the legal right to hunt moose.
Her Facebook posts and comments on wolves and MN Tribes has incited some heated debates, many that devolve into derogatory statements towards indigenous people in Minnesota. Instead of deleting the ignorant comments about wolves and American Indians or responding to them with facts, she sometimes "likes" what is said or more often just ignores it by not posting a response. At one point she even tells a commenter who points out that wolves are not the cause of moose decline to leave her Facebook page and go elsewhere to voice her opinion. From an outside observer Save Minnesota Moose quickly begins to appear as more of an anti-wolf and anti-treaty rights organization than it does a moose saving one.

Here are some examples of her views she shares with her followers on Facebook.

NATIVE AMERICAN TREATY RIGHTS

American Indians are quickly brought into the debate on moose each time Robin Johnson starts a petition (her most recent was posted August 5th) to object to certain tribes being legally allowed to continue moose hunting. She has appealed to the media, to the governor, and to the public to stop them without success. Here are some of the things she has posted in reference to tribes:

The Fond Du Lac Tribe under their treaty can still hunt moose this fall. They are planning on killing 25 Bulls. Even though some biologists feel it won't hurt the population, I disagree. 

They have a legal right to do this, but it still feels so very wrong. The DNR has said it probably won't affect the moose population as a whole. However, with so much disease and health problems in the population should even one healthy moose be hunted right now? My opinion is absolutely not! I plan on never visiting Black Bear Casino or Fond du Luth Casino in Duluth. 

I have asked our Governor Mark Dayton to step up and save the remaining 10. I sent him our petition with over 1000 signatures. I also told him that I feel if the Fond du Lac were allowed to hunt wolves right now instead of moose, it would be all over the Media. Why this Moose hunt is not talked about on any local television stations is unfortunate.

I was told by Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith that there was nothing she or Governor Dayton could do. She said that they have the rights within their treaty, and that was about it. I feel that there are always compromises or other alternative bargaining but I don't think anyone even tried! 

This is so sad and exemplifies selfishness, with disregard and lack of respect as to what is best for our moose population and to all of us who live in Minnesota.

The tribal biologists are paid by the tribes and want to make them happy. 

This is not acceptable. Our Minnesota moose are endangered , it is so selfish and irresponsible for these tribes to continue to kill them because of their “traditions”. These traditions need to stop. Life changes, everything changes.

We do not have many healthy moose left.

Please don't do this now. Be patient and do what you can to help the population thrive and get healthy, and then there will be a better time to go back to your traditions and practices.

We should all want to preserve these magnificent animals, and not add to their decline.

Some people just don't have common sense. It is so frustrating and detrimental to their dwindling population.

This comes from a non-native woman upset that she cannot stop tribal members from exercising their treaty rights. She calls out tribal members as selfish and disrespectful.  She also can't understand why tribal leaders will not set aside their legal rights to compromise and bargain with a non-native person just because that person wants it. Governor Dayton and Tina Smith recognized what was wrong with this, too bad Robin Johnson doesn't.

Keep in mind as you read this:

#1 Robin Johnson and anyone else upset with the tribes for hunting moose have no control over treaty rights and never will. No matter how many letters they write to their state reps or the governor and no matter how many petitions they sign they cannot change the law. 
It is literally like starting a petition addressed to the president of Canada and telling him to change a law because you don't like it. In this case all it does is fan the flames of preexisting hate in people towards American Indians in Minnesota, as is being seen on the Save the Moose Facebook page.

#2 Robin Johnson is petitioning tribal leaders asking them to stop moose hunting based on research she has read. It implies tribes have not done their due diligence to manage the natural resources they heavily rely on, that their own biologists are somehow inferior to her and the people she quoted in her petition. 

On her Facebook page several of her posts regarding tribes hunting moose elicit angry comments, here is some of what her followers had to say: 












It goes on and on like this.  Either Robin herself makes inflammatory comments or her followers do and she does nothing to educate people on the facts nor does she squash the vitriol directed at Minnesota tribes. In fact, she even likes many of the negative comments. Here are two examples. 




You cannot abolish treaties. Considering American Indians have faced numerous attacks by non-natives over their treaty rights to hunt and fish in the Midwest states in the past it is shocking to see Robin Johnson "like" this post.

Examples:





No one, especially tribal members, are ANTI moose. 

Tribes rely on moose for sustenance and spiritual medicine. Moose play an important role in culture and everyday life. They are traditionally a main source of food for some indigenous communities.

According to Dr. Seth Moore, Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, in reference to the Boise Fort and Grand Portage Bands hunting:
The hunt is a subsistence hunt, not a ceremonial hunt as has been suggested by the DNR. The hunt is part of the band’s culture; moose meat is part of their diet. If the hunt were to hurt the land or was detrimental to the animals, the band would oppose it.
"In 2014 Norman Deschampe, chairman of the Grand Portage Tribal Council, argued that a tribal subsistence hunt was fundamentally different than a sports hunt and should be considered differently. Since that time the DNR, through the 1854 Treaty Authority, has agreed that a limited taking of moose helps the bands maintain their tradition and culture." (Cook County News 2018)

Tribal members are not the ones exceeding their fish take limit, non-tribal members are the problem and the ones complaining.  Mille Lacs did not run out of walleye because tribal members overfished, it is running out of walleye because the lake is no longer suitable habitat for that species.





You cannot buy out treaties or dissolve them. 

Tribes exercising their right to hunt have not wiped out the moose. In fact, Robin Johnson had this to say back in 2013 (6 yrs ago) Well with a now 35% annual decline there will be approximately only 300 moose left in just 5 years! She was wrong. In 2013 we had an estimate 2,760 moose and today we have an estimated 4,180. The small number of moose being hunted by tribal members has not negatively impacted the species. 


"The last significant population decline occurred between 2009 and 2012. Since then, the number of moose in northeastern Minnesota has been statistically stable."
As we've seen in the past, targeting Minnesota tribes for exercising their treaty rights is irresponsible and can be downright dangerous for tribal members because it incites irrational fear and anger from people who do not respect tribes and their legal rights.

A responsible non-profit would educate their followers on what treaty rights are and what they mean to American Indians. The following is a quote from Anthony “Morgan” Rodman, Executive Director, White House Council on Native American Affairs.

"Under the Constitution, treaties with tribal nations are part of the supreme law of the land, establishing unique sets of rights, benefits and conditions for the treaty-making tribes who agreed to cede millions of acres of their homelands to the United States, in return for recognition of property rights in land and resources as well as federal protections."
"Through treaty-making, Indian tribes granted these lands and other natural resources to the United States, while retaining all rights not expressly granted. These retained rights cover a wide variety of subjects, including the right to hunt, fish, and gather resources – including access to traditional plants and animals –  both on land the tribes ceded, as well as on land they retained."
Quote from Dr. Seth Moore, Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa:


"Treaty rights, people need to know, are not given to the tribal nations from the federal government, these are property rights that the tribes reserved when they ceded large pieces of land to the U.S. government. These rights are the supreme law of the land, they weren’t given to the tribes they retained those rights when they handed pieces of land over to the federal government in the 1800’s so they’re the reason I do what I do in terms of managing natural resources for the tribe and why we have the 1854 treaty authority managing natural resources for the ceded territories."

Minnesota Legal History - DNR


In 1854, the Chippewa of Lake Superior entered into a treaty with the United States whereby the Chippewa ceded to the United States ownership of their lands in northeastern Minnesota. These lands are called "1854 ceded territory." Article 11 of the 1854 Treaty provides: 
"...And such of them as reside in the territory hereby ceded, shall have the right to hunt and fish therein, until otherwise ordered by the President." The Chippewa of Lake Superior who reside in the ceded territory are the Fond du Lac, Grand Portage and Bois Forte Bands.
Ceded Territory Boundaries

It is not for non-natives to say what the Ojibwe people can and cannot do within ceded territory and just attempting to do so through petitions and public Facebook posts is inflammatory.  Despite how passionate Robin Johnson is about her favorite animal she should reevaluate how she is advocating for moose.  

No matter how one may feel about hunting moose or the trapping and hunting of any other wild animal, this is about respecting the rights of Ojibwe people.  Please watch Ojibwe Treaty Rights: Connections to Land & Water to learn more.


PART TWO: NON PROFIT "SAVE MINNESOTA MOOSE" TARGETS WOLVES