Some Ojibwe in Minnesota are worried about the fate of the state's wolf population as state lawmakers consider a hunting and trapping season for the animals.
Wolves were removed from the federal endangered species list last year, and that upsets some tribal members. For many Ojibwe, wolves are important to traditional culture. Some believe wolves are sacred, and they want to see protections continue.
A painting of two wolves hangs prominently on the living room wall in Mary Favorite's home in Wauben on the White Earth Indian Reservation.
Favorite is a tribal elder and a member of the wolf clan. That means many in her large, extended family associate themselves very closely with the animal. Favorite considers wolves among her relatives.
"It's very special to me. When I read that in the paper that they were thinking about... passing a law about killing the wolves," Favorite said. "It broke my heart."
Favorite remembers decades ago when gray wolves nearly disappeared. Now there are an estimated 3,000 gray wolves in Minnesota.
The Department of Natural resources proposes to let hunters and trappers kill 400 wolves this fall. Favorite hates the idea.
"I thought, 'Oh my God,'" she said. "It's like they want to come in here and they want to shoot my brothers and my sisters."
It's not just members of the wolf clan who are upset about a possible wolf hunting season. Favorite's husband, Andy, is a historian and retired tribal college teacher. For traditional Ojibwe across the upper Midwest, wolves are sacred, Andy Favorite said.
"In our creation stories and a lot of our other legends, the wolf is very prominent. A lot of our spirits come in the form of these creatures, so it's a very spiritual thing," he said. "If the tribes have the spiritual moxie, they will step in and do something to protect the wolves."
Some Minnesota tribes have already done that. In 2010, the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe was the first to adopt a wolf management plan. They designated the band's 843,000 acres of land as a wolf sanctuary.