After Gitchie Manito, the Creator, had made all the rest of creation, he formed Original Man and placed him on Earth. The Creator assigned him a task: He was to walk the Earth and give names to all the plants, animals and places. While he was completing his task, Original Man noticed that all the animals were in pairs. When he mentioned this to the Creator, the Creator told him he would send him a companion. That companion was Ma’iingan - the wolf. As Original Man and Ma’iingan traveled the world together, they became very close and developed a unique brotherhood to each other and to the rest of creation.

After the task was over, the Creator told Original Man and Ma’iingan they must now separate their paths and go their different ways. He warned them, “What shall happen to one of you shall also happen to the other. Each of you will be feared, respected and misunderstood by the people that would later join you on this Earth.”

This perception of the wolf continues to exist today in our tribal heritage. We believe our lives are parallel to one another, a shared destiny, as the wolf and the Ojibwe people have suffered the same fates. History has proven that both Ma’iingan and the Ojibwe have lost our lands; we both have been persecuted and pushed close to destruction and hunted for our hair.

Today, however, Ma’iingan is still being persecuted and massacred, now by state-sanctioned hunts that are due to misinformation and just plain hatred.

The Ojibwe people see the wolf as a sentient being, a relative and an educator. Wolves teach us lessons about perseverance, cooperation and the value of family units. Wolves have a purpose in our shared environment. Others see the wolf as a vicious predator and vermin.

The wolf also plays a spiritual role in Ojibwe culture as a clan animal. The clan system in Ojibwe culture is very important as it acts as a family and marriage regulator and is an important part of Anishinaabe identity and intertribal relations.

Wolves have as much right to exist and inhabit this land as we all do. Wolves belong here and are a vital part of the health of our ecosystem. Wolf hunts represent the senseless taking of life. Respect and coexistence are needed.

Sandy Skinaway of Duluth is a member of the Sandy Lake Band of Ojibwe.