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SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. —On June 23, the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Board of Directors approved a resolution “In Defense of Treaty Ceded Lands” calling for the federal government, State Attorney General, and local prosecutors to seek the maximum penalties against Kurt Johnson Duncan and Linda Duncan for their “reprehensible crimes against mother nature, exploitation of wildlife and illegal harvest of protected and endangered species.”

The resolution also immediately and permanently bars the Duncans from all Sault Tribe lands.

“The Anishinaabe are hunters but we only hunt for sustenance or ceremony,” Sault Tribe Chairperson Aaron Payment said. “The wanton disregard for wildlife and protected species is unethical and savage. It is our hope that the evidence leads to a serious outcome and consequence.”

Duncan, 56, of Pickford, Mich., was arraigned May 20 in Chippewa County’s 91st District Court on 125 wildlife misdemeanor charges, following a months-long investigation by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. Duncan faces charges including illegally harvesting 18 wolves over the past 18 months. According to a DNR press release, other species involved in the charges include deer, turkey, bear and bobcat. DNR law enforcement detectives said that Duncan was using the animals for a variety of reasons, including crafts, selling, or disposing of them, and stated that he was catching the animals because he could and “likes to do it.”

Duncan also killed three bald eagles, according to the release.

The Treaty of 1836 reserves the right of northern Michigan tribes to hunt, fish and gather throughout the 13.9 million acre treaty ceded territory and large portions of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron. The 2007 Consent Decree between Sault Tribe and the state of Michigan agrees that the tribe has inland hunting, fishing and gathering right. These rights are essential to the tribe and its members from a political, social, economic, cultural and subsistence perspective.

Sault Tribe has a duty to ensure the protection of its natural resources and Treaty rights defending them against all threats. The illegal actions committed by of Kurt Johnson Duncan and Linda Duncan are a direct threat to the natural ecosystem of the 1836 Treaty Lands and a direct threat to tribal rights preserved by treaty, court judgments, the consent decree and the tribe.

According to the DNR release,  Johnson could face up to 90 days and a $1,000 fine for each wolf, restitution of up to $500 per wolf and up to 90 days in jail and $500 each for all the other wildlife crimes. But according to Michigan law, Johnson will serve no more than 90 days in jail even if convicted on all counts by serving the time concurrently. According to the DNR release, Duncan was charged with “killing and disposing” of the three bald eagles. But those charges haven’t been brought in court. And, although federal laws are much more severe, Johnson has not been charged in federal court.

The Duncans illegally harvested wolves, bears, deer and other species while killing several bald eagles in violation of local, state, and federal laws. Sault Tribe seeks to ensure that these individuals are prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law.

Sault Tribe encourages other Michigan tribes to join Sault Tribe in this request.

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Photo by Ken Bosma / CC BY