SAULT STE. MARIE — Kurt Johnson Duncan and Linda Duncan could face the maximum legal punishment for poaching from a recently approved resolution from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indian Board of Directors.
The board approved “In Defense of Treaty Ceded Lands,” which calls for the federal government, state attorney general and local prosecutors to seek the maximum penalties against the Duncans for their “reprehensible crimes against mother nature, exploitation of wildlife and illegal harvest of protected and endangered species.” This resolution also immediately and permanently barred them 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.”
Previously, 56-year-old Duncan of Pickford was arraigned in May in Chippewa County’s 91st District Court and faced 125 wildlife misdemeanor charges after an extensive investigation conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. Duncan was accused of illegally harvesting 18 wolves over the past year and a half in addition to killing three bald eagles. According to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, gray wolves in Michigan are listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. These animals are protected from “take” which includes harming, harassing or killing. Bald eagles are also federally protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. According to Detroit News, Duncan was accused of unlawfully snaring or trapping numerous coyotes, eight foxes, two white-tailed deer, one bobcat and one turkey. Natural Resources law enforcement detectives said that Duncan was using the animals for crafts, selling them or disposing of them. He said that he was catching these animals because he could and “likes to do it.”
His wife, Linda, was alleged to have made jewelry from fangs and mittens from the animal hide. This is according to a copy of the 27 pages of sworn affidavits from the Department of Natural Resources that were presented to the court on June 1 after the Detroit News challenged their absence from the official file.
According to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources release, Duncan could face up to 90 days and a $1,000 fine and $500 restitution for each wolf, up to 90 days in jail and $500 each for all the other wildlife crimes. Adhering to Michigan law, Duncan could serve no more than 90 days in jail even if convicted on all counts by serving the time concurrently. While Duncan has been charged with the “killing and disposing” of three bald eagles, these charges haven’t been brought to court. Furthermore, Duncan has not been charged in federal court.
However, Duncan pleaded not guilty of all charges in court on May 20.
The Sault Tribe has said that they have a duty to ensure the protection of its natural resources and Treaty rights, defending them against all threats. The deeds that the Duncans allegedly committed are considered to be a direct threat to the natural ecosystem of the 1836 Treaty Lands and to tribal rights preserved by treaty, court judgments, the consent decree and the tribe. As such, the Sault Tribe seeks to ensure that these individuals are prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law.
The Sault Tribe encourages other Michigan tribes to join them in this request.
“Bay Mills shares the views expressed by our relatives at the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe,” said Bryan Newland, president of the Bay Mills Indian Community. “These actions run counter to our values as Anishnaabe people. In addition, our tribal members are expected to adhere to the letter of the law when exercising their treaty right to hunt and fish. Those same strict standards should be applied to others who recklessly abuse our shared resources.”
The Sault News reached out to John Pepin of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, but could not supply any further information at this time and referred us to the prosecutor’s office. The Chippewa County prosecutor’s office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office both did not respond by the time of publication.