Is it me, or are the Indian tribes in Wisconsin trying to push people's buttons around the state these days?
At the risk of sounding like some kind of political hack or someone with a sour grapes attitude, i would like to ask the people of Wisconsin a thing or three. What do you think of what the tribes are doing to the outdoors in our state? How politically motivated are some of their recent stances, most notably since Scott Walker took office, and particularly since the majority of the legislature is held by Republicans?
What do I mean?
Let's start with the wolf hunt. Since wolves became fair game, and even before a season opened up on them, the tribes have opposed the hunt. The tribes have stated that they consider the wolves 'sacred' animals. While only 201 wolves were allowed to be killed during the inaugural season, 85 of those tags were allotted to the Indian tribes in the state. I believe these 85 wolves were never hunted, and still live in the northwoods. 85 hunters were denied tags because of this 'sacred' status they hold for an animal which do nothing but kill things. My question is, why?
They claim tribal rights. To me, and a lot of other sportsmen around the state, it looks like they are playing games, and hiding behind their tribal rights.
The spearing issue is rearing it's ugly head once more, and again, tribal rights have been claimed. And they aren't shy about advertising thier intents either, even posting spearing contest fliers in local businesses in the Northwooods. Guess who gets to suffer ultimately for it? The people of the state of Wisconsin.
Many of the Northwoods lakes that see annual spearing by the Native Americans, are being impacted by their methods. And this year, they've told the state they are going to increase thier harvest. Many of the lakes in the north have various size limits and bag limits on both muskie and walleyes, and that's been a direct result of spearing.
The spearing issue has been a quiet one for a long time, but this issue is beginning to surface again. And in my opinion the issue has been brought back with an 'in your face' attitude.
Deer have been another thing the tribes have been pushing too. I found this tid bit of information on Outdoor Life's website, and it's hard to argue with what they wrote:
The law isn't entirely clear on whether tribal hunters are allowed to hunt on private lands not owned by them or the tribe outside of the recognized reservation boundaries. But public land is clearly on the table.
In 1989, the tribes also attempted to incorporate night hunting for deer into their regulations stating that because the WDNR allowed night hunting for fox and coyotes, they should be allowed the same opportunity for deer. U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the hunt would present a risk to public safety and therefore was not allowable under the terms of the treaty.
But the debate has been rekindled thanks to the Chippewa's recent decision to authorize the night hunts.
Well, this doesn't seem to be a simple case of the tribes wanting to offer additional hunting opportunities to their members. Instead, it seems to be a case of tit for tat. The tribes are upset by the Wisconsin Legislature’s decision to hold a wolf hunt (which allows for night hunting) and its attempts to loosen mining laws.
The tribes consider wolves to be sacred and they fear more relaxed mining laws will result in the establishment of a large-scale mining operation that would impact an area lake.
So what is their problem? From where I sit, it looks like they are acting like a bunch spoiled brats who haven't gotten their way in the last few years, and these acts aren't exactly wins in the world of public relations. Haven't they learned anything from the 80s and 90s spearing protests?
A lot of people are beginning to get tired of these games. Wolves are sacred? Wolves do nothing but kill, and buying up as many tags as possible to prevent others from hunting them is nothing more than a game. Having a spearing contest and increasing their harvests on walleyes and muskies is akin to tactics used by a playground bully and hiding behind their treaty.
Hunting deer at night? Why should that be allowed in the first place and why only for them? The Outdoor Life writer suggest tit for tat because of the new mining regulations and it's hard to argue that. I believe mining will boost the economy in the north and benefit every part of the state. I don't believe it will impact the tribes' environmental concerns. And just think if non-Indians dared to try and open a casino?
The bottom line is we are the United States of America, and the tribes are not separate. They have the same rights as any other American, but seem to believe they deserve more because of their heritage.
If Native Americans truly want to ease some of the tensions they need to play nice with everyone. The outdoors has nothing to with political games or at least it shouldn't. They want a good, healthy, outdoor lifestyle as does anyone who has a stake in the outdoors. And their heritage doesn't make them any better than the rest of the state's residents.
More on spearfishing in our 'Peace on the Lakes' special report from 2011: Read the complete report | Protest photos from 1980s and 1990s | Database: The most speared lakes | View spearfishing slideshow