Published: Sunday, August 17, 2014
CHIPLEY — The spiritual leader of the Blackfoot Native American tribe traveled from Montana to Washington County ’s Seacrest Wolf Preserve to commune with the wolves and meet with preserve owners last week.
Leader Jimmy St. Goddard said the purpose of his visit is in part to aid in presenting signatures at the Capitol in Tallahassee demanding an investigation into the shooting death of one of the preserve’s wolves, Chaco , earlier this year.
Nearly four months ago, after a devastating flood brought on by heavy rains tore down fencing at Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Chaco left the property. Several days later, he was found near Roulhac Middle School in Chipley, and was shot and killed by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer. FWC said the officer shot to wolf out of concern for the safety of residents, including the nearby students.
Goddard states the commission violated the religious freedoms of the Blackfoot Nation, as well as those of other Native Americans. “The killing of the wolf in America is a violation against the Indian Freedom of Religious Act,” said Goddard. “We’ve been following the natural course of things, but thanks to the ignorance of many people, not knowing how precious this animal is, they’re not listening. So we need to take another bold step.”
That step is visiting with Florida ’s leaders to discuss the protection of not only the wolves, but also Florida ’s panthers. Goddard joined Seacrest owners Wayne and Cynthia Watkins and other supporters in a visit to Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday to make the request.