The significance of the Wolf
Native Studies 435
Instructor: Frank Tough
By: Tyson FrencheaterIntroduction
In this report I will elaborate on the significance of the wolf through the past, present and future. The wolf is an important animal because it plays a very important role within the natural environment. Wolfs are located in many regions and territories within Canada and are well known to all people in Canada, but in the province of Alberta they have their own significance also. Prior to contact with European settlers, wolves have been native to North America through time immemorial as known by First Nations people.
Wolves hold a significant role through the past, present, and also future within Canada as they have been known to play important roles through the environment, ecosystem, and beliefs and also through natural phenomenas.
For First nations people, the wolf is a sacred animal that has lived in North America for thousands of years as some songs, rituals, teachings and beliefs are based around them.
Prior to European contact, wolves have lived alongside First Nation people for centuries and there was very little conflict known to happen. Here scholar Mike Link elaborates: In their creation story, one of the four most important spirits in the Ojibway religion, Nanabojo is befriended and cared for by his nephew wolf. The wolves in the story demonstrate pack behaviour observed by Indian: They curl up near each other to share with family members, and remain faithful at all times. In this and other Ojibway tales the wolf is revered for its positive influence on high family values. (Link, pg.9). Wolves have their own way of living and they offer teachings with the way that they live their lives.
Furthermore, wolves, play important roles in most First Nation people lives because of the teachings that they do bring. For First Nations people around Canada the wolf is still a part of their communities as they affect many communities and their territories. Within some communities the wolf holds a special place within a ceremony as it is considered sacred, here an account by Omeka insights: The wolf, Maiingan, is considered sacred to the Ojibwe because it has been an important figure since it carries a cultural significance for members who hold traditional beliefs. The wolf is a very important animal since a lot of their spirits came from the wolves, which is very spiritual to them. (Omeka). Wolves were said to be related to many first Nations people and as many First Nations people viewed animals as teachers through observation, the wolf was viewed as a teacher for many communities.
Prior to European contact, North America natural managed itself with its people and animals, as they all did their roles according to Mother Nature. Wolves have always resided on North America along with First Nations people for thousands of years. There was conflict when it came to hunting in one anothers territories but eventually observations learning and also teachings came to be greater. Wolves are known to be pack animals as each member of the pack has its role within a pack to help the pack, they live for the pack to survives and keep the pack in good health and well-being. This was observed by First Nations people to keep their tribes in good health and well-being also as the wolves did for one another.
When European settlers began to come to North America the natural management system that was relevant at the time began to change, this process can be seen as the term colonial settler disruption. As this contact began to become more frequent, more of the natural management began to become disrupted and problems began to occur. With these problem, the wolf was seen as a problem to some of these settlers because of the location that they lived within North America, their location of living may have been within a wolf packs hunting territory. This would have created competition for living needs between wolves and settlers.
Furthermore, during this period the wolf population would have been high for competition for settlers. Some territories around North America were respected and thought to belong to or be managed by other First Nations people or animals, because if things were not respected, then problems may occur. As more European settlers began to occupy territories around North America, the problem with wolves began to become more prevalent too. During pre-confederation of Canada, the wolf population could be seen as high and would have been higher then today.
As European settlers began to occupy more of North America their observation of the animals began to be more known too and also their way of managing was coming to be known also. One of the ways settlers at the time managed their lands were by their values and beliefs that are not native to North America that may have been by killing animals that affected their lands. Here scholar John R. Gunson insights a little about this: Wolves were considered abundant in Alberta prior to European exploration and settlement, but from 1860-1920, their numbers declined. (pg.33, Gunson). With the management of European values and beliefs, the wolf population began to lower do to more territories becoming occupied.
At the turn of the 20th century the wolf population was still high as colonization and European expansion began to be more prevalent. With the prevalence of colonization and European expansion, the wolf population was starting to lower because of areas becoming more in use for European anthropogenic activities. Here scholar Gunson elaborates on the matter: Wolves became more abundant in northern and western Alberta from 1920s to the 1940s. Removal of wolf bounty payments for several years in 1930s may have facilitated their recovery. As colonization began to become more universal more methods of eliminating animals and specifically wolfs at the time grew but also method to repopulate wolfs grew to.
Here lists the methods used to eliminate wolfs:
Methods used to eliminate wolf during the early 20th century
Bounty (reward for killing wolfs)
In the early 20th century there has been an agenda for the removal of wolfs which is management according to the colonial government at the time. This removal of wolfs had influence on the environment because of the important role that wolfs as predator animals have. One influence the removal of wolfs had on the environment was on the population of animals like: elk, deer, and rabbits as their population increased due to predator animals decrease. Although wolfs were in a sense seen as bad at times, their roles within the environment and animal food chain is very important as they bring balance within the food chain.
Through the more moderate times of the mid 20th century to the more present times of today, the management of the wolf population has decreased and also increased due to human action. This increase and decrease in the wolf population had to do with conflict between wolves and man, some of the wolves along with their packs resided on lands that belonged to people. This caused conflict because of livestock being bothered by wolves, so management planes needed to be set in place by the Canadian government so that this problem could be under control. Through these moderate times there has been many management plans that have been set forth and some methods have worked but some also only gone so far.
Furthermore, there has been management plans that have been set out to protect the wolf population due to decrease in populations, also there has been different methods used in different regions and territories to manage the population. Through the different time periods of the 20th century management plans have also changed, here scholar Gunson elaborates: Wolf protection was the primary management goal during the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. Trapping and hunting seasons were regulated, but wolf harvest was not encouraged. High numbers of wolves during the 1970s led to complaints by agriculturists and hunters, and ultimately to public discussion and controversy. Provisional wolf management strategies were established by government in 1983. Key long-term strategies were wolf trapping education, promotion of a 30% annual wolf harvest, and reduction of wolf populations on critical big-game ranges. Short-term strategies included incentives to wolf trappers and accelerated wolf control in live-stock areas, although the latter program was developed during the 1970s. (pg.332, Gunson). Through the mid twentieth century the population of the wolf has gone down compared to the 19 century, this would have been due to land occupancy of the Canadian government and European settlers. Since the 19th century the natural ecosystem with its food chain has been affected, among the area that has been affected has been the wolfs influence on the environment.
With the wolves decrease in some areas in Canada, much of the ecosystem became discombobulated as animal food chains became imbalanced. With this imbalance in these animal food chains, some animals like the rabbit, elk and deer began to over populate areas and other areas of the food chain felt the affect because of shortage of food needs. Some areas of the ecosystem began to not grow, like plants, and herb because of rabbit, deer, and elk were over eating in these areas where wolves did not reside. As the population of the wolves were low, the government took notice and took action to repopulate the wolves, but this only went so far because of the massive territory that Canada has. Furthermore, the government took other actions to repopulate the wolves so that their numbers would go up and the ecosystem could become more balanced.
With the imbalance in the ecosystem due to low numbers of wolves, the Canadian government used some methods to help the number of wolves to repopulate. Some of the methods that the Canadian government used varied in different places because some areas were more populated with trees or had ties with parks or private owned land. Method like wolf farms, trapline safe places and federal or provincial parks helped to repopulate wolves during times when their numbers were low. More over, some of these method could only go so far because of the land mass that they only cover, also trap lines as safe areas for wolves is not enough to make a big impact of the repopulation of wolves.
With the limitation to repopulation of wolves, the government would need to look for new ways that can help the wolves, overall this would be beneficial for the ecosystem in many areas around Canada. One of the limitations that Canada has experienced with management of the wolves is the killing of wolves on private owned land or recreational hunting of wolves. The killing of wolves on private owned lands has been an issue between the government and the people who own the lands, because in many cases the government may or may not grant permission to remove wolves in an area that livestock may be taken from farmers lands. There is limitation when it comes to the management of the wolf population in Canada, these problem may happen in the future also.
For the most part in the mid 20th century, the management of wolves has been very important because of the significant influence that wolves have on the environment and ecosystem. One of the management plans that has been going well for the Canadian government has been the education about wolves on the people within Canada and how they can live along side wolves, because they will most like always reside in many areas around Canada. Another plan that could be of use within a management plan could be the use of traditional ecological knowledge First Nations people because they hold knowledge about living with wolves for many years prior to European contact of North America. In the 20th century, the wolf population has been acknowledging to be very important as they hold an important role within the natural eco system.
Methods used to repopulate wolves
Trap line safe areas
Bounty removal on wolves
Educating the masses about wolves
As of today wolves reside in many parts of Canada, and will continue to do so for years to come. Many part of Canada the wolf population varies because of land ownership and regulation between the people and the government that are based around management of wolves. One thing that can be said is that management of the wolves and the agreements around them can be complicated because some area are heavily populated with wolves and some areas are not, so if a wolf crosses private property even if numbers are low they can still be killed. This low number of wolves would impact the ecosystem because the wolf may be an alpha wolf that leads a pack, or mother wolf that cares for pups and future generations of pups.
Furthermore, with this complication between the government and land owners there is uncertainty at times about what to do with wolves because in some areas they need to be removed but overall they are important for the environment, especially with their natural roles as predators. Through consensus the government has tried to devise plans on the management and process of the wolf but some people do not participate because of the complications they have received by the government. With some of these complication that go on with the government today and will most likely go on into the future, some of the best planes that the government has done for the land owner and people has been to educate them on how to live with wolves within their territories. Moreover, future educational plan with Traditional ecological knowledge would be a good resource to use for people do deal with wolves.
Traditional ecological knowledge is a newly emerging field of study that has recently come into acknowledge by scholars, it is known to be a form of educational system as acknowledge by First Nations people, and by scholars it is acknowledge as Aboriginal ways of knowing that intertwines spiritual, and traditional forms of knowledge. This knowledge system known as traditional ecological helps scientists to work with First Nations people through an understanding of culture for a positive future with one another, it also helps scientists understanding certain things that happen within an ecosystem or environments through First Nation people perspective.
Through traditional ecological knowledge different understanding of education, health, animals, and knowledge can be understood to help the future generations to come. Forms of education such as how to build a relationships with the land, animals can be used for farmers, land owners, and other people who come into contact with wolves. This knowledge could benefit the future generations to come because some of the management plans seem to be only going so far, and more education is needed, also knowledge on how to properly live with wolves. With the management plans that have been developed for land owners so far, there has been benefits for their lands and livestock through taking actions like: brings livestock indoor, or being more mindful of actions they can do without killing wolves, but traditional ecological knowledge could help a little more with these benefits.
Furthermore, this knowledge that has been prevalent in North America for thousands of year has been working for First Nations because they understood the role of the Wolf and also their own as Native people, overall people and animals have their roles within Mother Nature. Traditional ecological knowledge could help people more to understand this type of knowledge and to respect the animals because they are part of a bigger ecological system that affects humans, animals, and environments. However, much of this knowledge may also only go so far because of the amount of people that reside in different parts of Canada and also in rural areas where wolves reside. The government would also need to improvise a plan that could publicly educated people about their land and wolves along with traditional ecological knowledge.
Moreover with traditional ecological knowledge, some First Nations people may not trust the government with this way of knowing because the relationship that is in place with the government now, that not being such a good one. Furthermore there is a lot of laws and regulation that are set on First Nations people, and Canada that may affect proper action to educated people. There is also different circumstances and educational systems across Canada that would affect and effective management plan for wolves and people. Traditional ecological knowledge is intergenerational knowledge that has been pasted on through generations, within this knowledge may be a frame work that people within Canada can take into consideration and put into action as it would benefit the ecosystems and environments.
Future methods used to manage population of wolves
Self-education on wolves
Traditional ecological knowledge education
Respecting territories on animals
Hunting for only what people need
Removing only what needs to be removed wolves)
Properly educating the future generations on wolves and their part with the environment and ecosystem
Through the past, present and future the significance of wolves has always been important because of their roles within nature and what they do for the environment and ecosystem. They play vital roles as predators that keep animals within a food chain at a number that works for the environment and ecosystem, for if they were to be removed then the environment and ecosystem would become discombobulated and landowners would overall struggle along with all other animals. The management of wolves has been a complicated process in the past with their numbers being either too low or too high, but what has helped with this has been the proper education process that has been taken to help people understand what they can do with their part as land owners. Traditional ecological knowledge is a new form of education method that can be used to help feel to understand more about the land and animals, this education can help people around Canada to better manage themselves and wolves so that the environment and ecosystem can be in good health and wellbeing.
Here is a chart showing an approximate overview of wolf before European contact.
Here is a second chart showing an approximate overview of the wolf population as of the 18th, 19th, and 20th century.
Here is a third chart showing an approximate overview of the wolf population as of today.
Here is a forth chart showing an approximate overview of the wolf population of the future.
Following the pack: The World of Wolf Research. Mike Link and Kate Crowley Voyageur Press. 1994.
Omeka quote retrieved from: and present management of wolves in Alberta, Wild life society Bulletin. John R. Gunson. 1992