MAZINA’IGAN PAGE 2 WINTER 2018-2019 On the cover A pair of waaboozoog (snowshoe hares) feed on the dry twigs of an alder. Hares have been a traditional food source for Woodland Indians for centuries. The small mammal with powerful legs has been in decline, however, and native residents of the Northwoods report seeing fewer and fewer of them. Reductions in the depth of the snowpack is decreasing their access to the upper branches of alders, a primary food source. Read about climate change and waaboozoog on page 18. (Michael Quinton, photo) • WILDLIFE • Hunts rooted in community, ceremony yield five bull elk in Wisconsin Clam Lake, Wis.—For tribal nations in the Ojibwe Ceded Territory, the return of a native species is an occasion for ceremony and celebration. From coaster brook trout to the American marten, GLIFWC member tribes and their interagency partners have invested decades into restoring fish and wildlife to the fractured ecosystems of the upper Great Lakes region. In a new milestone, elk stewardship in northern Wisconsin has helped usher in the first omashkooz hunt- ing season of the modern era. “It’s been a real source of pride to see the herd grow and develop into a healthy population.We’ve come a long way since the early 1990s when we mapped out the road to elk restoration,” said Michael J. Isham, GLIFWC executive administrator. “The recent hunt fulfills an Anishinaabe teaching that native people must make use of our natural resources, these gifts from the Creator, or risk losing them.” The Ojibwe elk hunt got underway in late September, while Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials set the state opener for October 13. Treaty and state-licensed hunters evenly split 10 bulls-only harvest tags valid for the Clam Lake elk management zone, a vast expanse of largely public land centered in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Following a September 22 gathering at Chippewa Lake that included a review of regulations by GLIFWC wardens and a series of traditional ceremonies, intertribal groups drew up hunting plans for five bull elk in the Clam Lake zone. Hunters from GLIFWC treaty bands took turns in the wilds of the mixed pine- hardwood forest, scouting elk habitat and looking for harvest opportunities. On September 23 a Sokaogon Mole Lake member made the first kill, connecting with a beautiful omashooz bull. The harvest kicked off a new era for many native hunt- ers experienced in pursuing white-tailed deer, but now after a whole new animal. The right spot Patrick Hmielewski’s hunting partners weren’t sure what to make of his new elk calls. The cow call sounded like some sort of screaming bird and the other one—meant to mimic a bull elk’s mating bugle—seemed to defy description. “By the time the weekend is up, I’ll have these things down,” he assured fel- low Bad River Band members Elijah Weber, Steven Nelis, and Jerome Powless. It was Thursday afternoon, September 27. Weeks earlier the foursome was selected at random from a pool of qualified hunters to participate in the historic hunt that placed a premium on community patronageandatraditionalhuntingethicthatinspirescollaborationaboveindividual achievement. Over the following days, the crew would coordinate hunting forays with other tribal members and share responsibilities both at camp and in the field. Most treaty hunters made camp in the meadows east of the manoomin-rich Chippewa Lake—the same site that hosted the GLIFWC-led elk orientation and a number of ceremonies. The Commission provided portable toilets and a dumpster for hunters and their families lodging in personal wall tents and campers.Acentral firepit offered a place to cook meals and share stories. By Charlie Otto Rasmussen, Editor Elk return to Wisconsin Today’s Clam Lake elk herd is rooted in a reintroduction project that included University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Department of Natural Resources,U.S.ForestService,OjibweTribes,GLIFWCandRockyMountain Elk Foundation. GLIFWC researchers mapped out suitable elk habitat in the region and Lac Courte Oreilles Spiritual Leader Gene Begay presided over a welcoming ceremony in 1995 when the founding herd of 25 elk was translo- cated from Lower Michigan to the Wisconsin Ceded Territory. A hunting group comprised of Bad River Band members found success in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest on September 29. From left: Patrick Hmielewski, Elijah Weber, Steven Nelis, and Jerome Powless. (K. Hmielewski photo) Mole Lake youth waadookaaged (helpers) pack out an omashkooz quarter on a length of pole wood near Clam Lake, Wisconsin. A Sokaogon hunting party harvested the first elk of the season on September 23. (T. Bartnick photo) (see Elk hunt, page 19) After a gloomy Friday that didn’t produce elk sightings for tribal hunters, Saturday morning delivered sunshine and a woodland aglow in autumn reds, oranges and yellow. A few hours after sunup, the four hunters from the Bad River Band stood in a staggered line some 40 yards apart in a wide forest opening bound by trees and, on the back end, a lowland marsh “We’d seen a lot elk sign there,” Hmielewski said. “Now, this is all new to us, hunting elk. But the spot seemed right.” Before the crew began a slow, stop-and-go walk into the forest meadow—a technique known as still hunting—Hmielewski produced his bugling tube, mak- ing a series of calls that imitated a challenge to bull elk. During the September breeding period known as the rut, bulls will face-off, sparring with their antlers in a show of dominance to establish the right to mate with area cows. A few minutes after the last bugle, three bulls appeared. He had struck the right tone. Early season deer registrations down, bear registrations up from 2017 The early dagwaagin (fall) hunting season harvest numbers are below average for waawaashkeshi (deer) hunters and up for makwa (bear) hunters in the 1842 and 1837 Ceded Territories compared to the same period last year. Early season weather started off hot, humid, and buggy, and then cold, windy, rainy weather persisted through much of late September and into early November. From the start of the season (the day after Labor Day) through October 22, Ojibwe hunters registered 201 deer and 36 black bears. At the same time last year, tribal members had registered 477 deer and 27 black bears. Thisisthesecondyeartribalhuntershavehadtheoptionofregisteringtheir deer remotely, via phone. Of the 201 deer that were registered in the first few weeksoftheseason,153(76%)wereregisteredusingthenewphoneregistration system.Thepeakoftheoff-reservationtribaldeerharvesttypicallyfallsoverthe second, third, and fourth weeks of November. —T. Bartnick