The Sacred Bones Experience


The Sacred Bones curriculum has been adapted for use in the university classroom. Recently, a senior class in the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Program at St. Cloud State University, Minnesota, undertook a Grey Wolf Sacred Bones Journey for their capstone project.


Dr. Jeanne Lacourt, course Professor from the Menominee Indian Tribe, describes the Sacred Bones experience and the class field trip to The International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota:


classSacred Bones was an incredibly rich experience for me and the students in the class. It challenged students and increased their awareness of other animals and of themselves. The reflective and learning in service nature of the course doesn’t let a student just sit back. Sacred Bones demands change.


mapworkIt was exciting to see how the students eagerly embraced the course’s integrated, open approach that is much less dogmatic and prescriptive than most university curricula. The focus on nature-based consciousness makes it relevant to all walks of life.


Sacred Bones has something important to offer everyone. The parts of the course that involve introspection are of particular use for individuals steeped in Western culture that typically excludes reflection.


howlingSymmetrically, for those who do create space for inner reflection, Sacred Bones offers an opportunity to share across conventional community and cultural boundaries. The lectures, exercise, and discussion are relevant for tribal students because the learning supports growing knowledge of their tribal values, history and cultural traditions in nature.


One thing I really appreciated is that the learning didn’t just stop at the end of class. Neither did it remain behind “ivory tower walls.” All students spoke of how the experience changed them and how they would continue to bring it into their everyday lives.


lone-wolfOne of the students took what she was learning to prison inmates, many of whom were Anishinaabe native. The inmates wrote moving stories about the Grey Wolf and their own connection with nature and the sadness of loss and abuse of our wildlife kin. [See Two Brothers Pushed to the Point of Extinction, below]


Two Brothers Pushed to the Point of Extinction


Anishinaabe and Ma’iingan walked the earth and came to know all of her. In this Journey they became very close to each other. They became like brothers in their closeness. They realized they were like brothers to all creation.


The Creator said you are to separate. You must go different ways. What shall happen to one of you will  happen to the other. Each of you will be feared, respected, and misunderstood by the people that will later join you.


As the Europeans landed at Plymouth Rock some 400 years ago, and move north, east, and west to settle the United States, they had conflict with the Anishinaabe. At times they were killed, put on reservations, and forced to live the European way or suffer. At times they were hunted, trapped, and poisoned by giving then smallpox delivered in blankets that killed hundreds of Anishinaabe. While being put in reservations, the Anishinaabe did not at times have food. The food that was given to them at times was spoiled. The Anishinaabe had their children taken from them and put in boarding schools and not allowed to speak their own language or practice  their heritage. Many times the Anishinaabe were forced to sign treaties that often times were of no value. This is just a small part of the way that they were hunted, trapped, killed, and driven from their land.


As the European settlers moved into northern Minnesota, they brought with then logging and agriculture that opened up and destroyed much of the old-growth forests that were home to the Grey Wolf. Also home to the Woodland Caribou and Moose which at the time was the main food sources for the Grey Wolf. As more Europeans settled, they over-hunted the Woodland Caribou to the point that none were left. As progress was made, logging and agriculture opened up the forest land and made new habitat for the whitetail deer to inhabit. Up until this, the whitetail deer was not native to the timber of northern Minnesota. The moose were also hunted to the point that there were only 500 left at the time the government stepped in and made it illegal to hunt the moose. The Grey Wolf has less and less to eat. So it suffers more loss because it can’t feed its young.


Government officials such as game wardens participate in the attempt to eliminate the Gray Wolf by using snares, leg hold traps, the digging  of pups out of their dens, poisoning, and by any other means known to man. Most outdoorsmen considered it their solemn duty to help exterminate the Gray Wolf.


lakeBy 1974, the European outdoorsmen and government officials had almost succeeded in eliminating the Gray Wolf as numbers fell so low it was placed on the federally-protected animal list where it stayed for many years. Throughout the years that it was on the protected list it suffered years of growth and years of decline. For the most part it has grown and stabilized up and until.


That Gray Wolf had made enough of a rebound that in January 2012 the Gray Wolf was officially delisted from federal protection. Once again, and I’m sad to say, 10 months later it was once again being hunted and trapped.


The winter of 2007-2008 was the last time there was a population survey done on the Gray Wolf and at that time there was an estimated 2921 Gray Wolfs. The next population survey was done in the winter of 2012-2013 where after the hunt there’s an estimated 2211 Gray Wolfs and it was reported the smallest number since 1988. Note also that from 2007-2008 survey till the most recent survey of 2012-2013 the moose population was twice what it is today. The moose being one of the Gray Wolf’s sources of food.


The Gray Wolf hunting and trapping season 2012 brought 23,000 applicants to apply for 6000 licenses of which killed 413 wolfs of which 240 of them were juveniles.


the Gray Wolf, or Ma’iingan, is considered a brother to the Anishinaabe, and of the 11 federally-recognized Anishinaabe tribes of Minnesota, not one of the tribes was contacted or asked for their input into the proposed wolf hunt. The DNR [Minnesota Department of Natural Resources] stated the purpose of the 2012-2013 wolf season was for recreational hunting and trapping.


So I challenge you to do some research and you’ll come to learn that both the Anishinaabe and the Ma’iingan have, as told by the Creator, been hunted, trapped, poisoned, misunderstood, feared, and mistreated with the persecutory attitudes and behaviors of the Europeans that have brought the Anishinaabe and Ma’iingan to the brink of extinction.