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The Cultural Importance of Wolves

Created by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC)

First Nations in British Columbia have been stewards of their lands and waters long before colonial contact, upholding the sacred responsibility – reflected in Indigenous laws and legal orders – of protecting and managing their territories including the wildlife species that reside within. Despite centuries of colonization and government practices and laws aimed at denying Indigenous Title, Rights, laws and legal orders, First Nations in B.C. continue their sacred holistic relationship with the environment in order to guide, shape, and empower their Title, Rights, and way of life.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs’ mandate on hunting and wildlife management highlights how First Nations’ relationships to wildlife and all living things are an inextricable part of Indigenous peoples’ identities, cultures and livelihoods. Above all, this relationship embeds principles of respect, reciprocity, and accountability that have allowed Nations to govern and care for their traditional territories since time immemorial and maintain deep spiritual connections to their lands, waters, and all living things.

Wolves are animals that hold a special, spiritual special connection to First Nations – they are our relatives, revered as sacred. We have co-existed with wolves for millennia and they are deeply entrenched in our lifeways and belief systems; they are part of our ceremonies, regalia, and stories. Wolves are also a keystone species whose demise creates imbalance that ripples across critical ecosystems.

Recognizing the importance the wolf holds to First Nations in B.C., UBCIC continues to call upon the Province to implement and uphold UN Declaration Article
29 (1):

Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination.

In line with this article and other principles enshrined in the UN Declaration, UBCIC supports First Nations in upholding responsible, sustainable conservation and stewardship of wildlife, including protecting wildlife from any killing contests and unethical hunting and culling practices that oppose Indigenous traditional values, ways of life, and fundamental rights.

Wolf culls and caribou habitat recovery are complex, interlinked issues for B.C. First Nations and are fundamentally rooted in challenges created by the provincial government and their mismanagement of caribou habitat. UBCIC and many First Nations recognize that the underlying cause of caribou decline is not predation, but rather the destruction and fragmentation of caribou habitat by logging and the construction of resource access roads and other infrastructure such as utility lines, oil and gas pipelines, and hydro transmission corridors. The endangered status of caribou herds in British Columbia is a result of decades of mismanagement of their critical habitat and has forced many First Nations to shoulder impacts of the government’s failure, and to choose between two wildlife species they value greatly.

Faced with numerous challenges stemming from years of mismanaged, ineffective, and colonial government policies and practices, First Nations uphold and exercise the right to make decisions regarding the management and stewardship of their lands, including the wildlife species that reside within. As upheld by the UN Declaration, UBCIC honors the self-determination, jurisdiction, Title and Rights, and sovereignty of each First Nation, noting that:

all levels of federal and provincial governments have an obligation to recognize and respect the right of First Nations to make decisions regarding the stewardship of the unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories and lands.