Nez Perce Tribe honors the wolf

A photo from a game trail camera shows a pack of white, grey and black wolves walking across a snowy mountainside with evergreen trees behind them.
In this Feb. 1, 2017, file image provided the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, a wolf pack is captured by a remote camera in Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in northeast Oregon near the Idaho border. Wildlife advocates pressed the Biden administration on Wednesday, May 26, 2021, to revive federal protections for gray wolves across the Northern Rockies after Republican lawmakers in Idaho and Montana made it much easier to kill the predators. (Credit: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife / AP File)



During a three-hour ceremony at the Pi-Nee-Waus Community Center in Lapwai, Idaho, Nez Perce tribal members gathered for a summit called Honoring the Wolf. 

After a prayer ceremony at the summit on Saturday, tribal member Silas Whitman talked about how the Nez Perce Tribe have led efforts to restore wolf populations in the Rocky Mountain region since the 1980s. 

The Nez Perce Tribe officially took over the restoration of wolf populations in Idaho in 1995. Wolves were reintroduced to areas in Idaho such as the Salmon River, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area and Yellowstone National Park

“The efforts that were made were basically to protect the place of the wolf in our circle of life,” said Whitman, who explained the importance of predators, such as bears and wolves to the ecosystem.

“Without them, the balance of the wheel of life goes flat,” Whitman said.

Julian Matthews, a board member of the nonprofit Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, helped organize the event. It was a chance for tribal members to share stories and raise awareness about the importance of wolves for Nez Perce culture and for the environment, Matthews said.

A Nez Perce man in braids and a vest stands before a wooden podium in a gymnasium.

“The condors that we’re trying to bring back are dependent on the wolves population being here,” said Nez Perce Tribal member Gary Dorr, who spoke at the summit.

Last spring, Idaho Fish and Game proposed a plan to reduce wolf populations in the state by 60 percent. Many tribal and Idaho community members disagree with the plan, Matthews said.

“We’ll be networking with various groups that are working to protect wolves, to look at other ways that we can work in Idaho to protect the wolves, and to restore the wolves and to keep the wolves safe from the state of Idaho,” Matthews said. 

Along with a lawsuit against the state, members of the nonprofit are working on more media outreach and a documentary about what’s going on with wolves in Idaho, Matthews said. 

“We preserve, protect and perpetuate species as a whole, and all species in tandem, so the question in my mind becomes about balance, and I believe things are out of balance with the wolf population,” said Don Ebert, Idaho Fish and Game Commission chairman, in a press release.

Matthews said The Nez Perce Tribal Council is still crafting an official statement about the current wolf management plan.