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BEARGREASEMAIINGAN Maiinganag remain protected under the Endangered Species Actfor now Since the decision in Humane Society v. Jewell issued in December 2014 maiinganag wolves in the western Great Lakes have been protected from a gen- eral hunting and trapping season. The decision by the federal district court in the District of Columbia required the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take actions to relist maiinganag as an endangered species in Wisconsin and Michigan and a threatened species in Minnesota. The relisting of wolves has halted the general hunting and trapping seasons. In Wisconsin and Michigan taking of maiinganag is only allowed to protect human life in Minnesota they also may be killed in response to verified livestock depredations. Annual counts have shown a rise in maiingan population numbers following the Humane Society decision. During the 2013-2014 count researchers estimated 660 to 689 individuals living within the State of Wisconsin. This increased to 746 to 771 individuals estimated in the 2014-2015 count including around 29 maiinganag living primarily within tribal lands. Preliminary results from Wis- consins 2015-2016 count will be available soon. The decision by the district court may not provide permanent protection. The Interior Department appealed with several states filing amicus briefs. It is not clear when the D.C. Circuit will reach a decision as oral arguments have not been scheduled. In addition Senators and Representatives from Minnesota Wisconsin and Utah have introduced legislation to remove maiinganag in the Great Lakes region from protection under the Endangered Species Act. The staffers of legislators in these states report receiving significant contact both for and against removing Endangered Species Act protections for maiinganag. By Philomena Kebec GLIFWC Policy Analyst Beargrease rich in tradition and function Northern WisconsinA therapy for treating joint pain favored baking ingredient birch bark canoe sealant even gun barrel conditioner beargrease is one of the great gifts from the natural world in Ojibwe Country. The bear is a medicine animal explained Ojibwe elder Joe Rose Sr. at GLIFWC offices in Odanah. In pictographs on ancient scrolls bears appear with medicine plants in their mouth. The water that it drinks the food the plants that it eats all becomes part of the bear. FormembersoftheBearClanconsumingmakwaevenutilizingbearpartsis oftentimes tabooakin to eating ones relative. For others including Rose who grew up eating bear meat a makwa harvest can be very much an element of mino- bimaadiziwinliving life in a good way. Creatingthevaluedlinimentknownasmakwabimideisaprocessthatextends threadsthick and thinto all sorts of traditional activities hunting and skinning food preparation and storage and in the final stages the process feels a whole lot like sugarbushing. In the fall 2015 a group of us did our best to fully utilize a bruin harvested in Ashland County. From point-of-kill to finished grease this makwabimidekwin venture trans- pired into an afterhours GLIFWC staff affair involving a handful of friends that work at the Commission. Theres the guy with the land the guy with the harvest permit the guy with the boiling equipment and the linchpin Jennifer Ballinger who carries the know-how and titular family credentials. Ballinger is the twice great-grandaughter of Gichigami north shore icon John Beargrease a Grand Por- tage Ojibwe heralded for delivering the U.S. mail along a rugged and challenging route in northeast Minnesota. Our makwa was harvested on an 80-degree October afternoon and butchered that evening. The thick layers of fat so valued by historic settlers and natives alike were packaged into clear plastic bags and frozen for some seven weeks. Around Thanksgiving time we set aside a few days to make grease. By Charlie Otto Rasmussen Staff Writer Bear fat contains all the nutrients all the plants and medicines that the animal has consumed. It is essential for the bears fat to be highly nutritious in order to sustain the bear throughout winter hibernation. Making beargrease makwabimidekwin At room temperature makwa fat is pretty hard to handle escaping from the firmest grip even squishing its way out from under a sharp blade. Half-thawed after a day removed from the freezer however the snow-white fat becomes much moremanageable.ArmedwithapairofknivesandasharpenerBallingershusband Wesley tackles much of the prep work investing hours into slicing thick sheets of fat into small cubes. The work is slimy but ultimately pays off by creating more surface area accelerating the rendering progression. Drawing from traditional knowledge keepers elders Nancy and Dennis Jones Ballinger guides the process along sharing insights into the Anishinaabe relationship with bears. We load a steel stockpot with diced makwa fat and crank up the propane cooker.After a while the little white chunks hiss and pop and take on a pale russet tone. Aside from occasional stirring its time to ease into a folding chair and share stories as the mix begins to liquefy and boil.Apart from the city lights and hum of traffic we could be sitting around a maple sap evaporator working up a load of early spring syrup. Ballinger discusses the teachings widely shared by the Jone- sesmother and son from the Red Gut First Nation Nigigoonsiminikaaning in northwest Ontario.We learn of the special relationship between humans and bears origin stories and the vital role of makwabimide in some sweat lodge ceremonies. Just as explained by fellow elder Joe Rose raised 270 miles away from Red Gut in the United States bears are exceptional beings fortified with healing powers. It is an Anishinaabe truism. Hours pass stirring continues and the batch has rendered down to a golden liquid. Crispy brown chunks of hard fatsome call cracklinfloat on the surface and are easily removed with a hand strainer Wesley later demonstrates that bear cracklin is a highly potent fire starter. Like maple syrup we filter hot makwa liquid through a cloth to remove leftover bits of cracklin and impurities. Once cooled we carefully ladle the still- watery grease into glass jars and seal each one tight. With another large cache of cubed makwa fat at the ready its time to fire up the cooker again. Friends and relatives After another days work all the fat is rendered. Some jars we store at home in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life. But much of the makwabimide is gifted tofriendsandrelatives.FollowingaDecember21ceremonyatGLIFWCoffices the shortest day of the yearall staff in attendance take home a jar knowing it was created in a good way. As part of the filtering process hard bits of fat are removed from the rendered beargrease. COR photo PAGE 15 MAZINAIGANSUMMER 2016