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Location: International Falls, Minnesota
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Wisconsin Hunter to Homong Stay out

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12/17/2004 12:26:48 PM

Hunter to Hmong: Stay away
Warning offends some at forum
Julian Emerson
Leader-Telegram Staff

Hmong hunters should stay out of the woods in northern Wisconsin in future deer-hunting seasons, a member of the Exeland Area Rod and Gun Club warned Thursday.

Norman Rademaker said Hmong hunters repeatedly have trespassed on private hunting land in recent years, severely straining relations with other hunters and landowners. He predicted violence similar to the Nov. 21 shootings of eight hunters in a Sawyer County woods near Exeland if Hmong continue to hunt there.

“For the safety of all concerned hunters, the only way to avoid future possible trouble is for Hmong to not return to hunt anywhere near the area where the greatest tragedy in hunting memories occurred,” Rademaker told about 120 people at a forum to discuss the incident, nearly half of whom were Hmong.

But Eau Claire City Council member Thomas Vue told the forum sponsored by the Eau Claire Human Rights Coalition that Rademaker’s statement assumes Hmong people hunt irresponsibly and are prone to violence. That’s simply not the case, he said.

“Many Hmong people hunt the right way,” he said, acknowledging more education of Hmong hunters is needed.

Rademaker accused Hmong hunters of overhunting public lands and trespassing onto private hunting land, prompting disputes. Incidents of trespassing have increased substantially, he said, “and these trespassers are always Hmong.”

Rademaker said he had a run-in with Hmong hunters trespassing on his neighbor’s land just hours before eight hunters were shot Nov. 21. Chai Soua Vang, of St. Paul, faces six counts of murder in the incident.

“Even though we had not argued, the attitude of the Hmong and the terrible violent screaming … showed he had been totally out of control,” Rademaker said.

Rademaker’s comments drew gasps from some and groans from others. Several people responded to the remarks, saying it’s unfair to blame all the Hmong for the actions of one.

Chikou Xiong, an Eau Claire Hmong resident, said he was offended by Rademaker’s remarks.

“I’m hearing a lot about how dumb and stupid the Hmong are,” Xiong said. “I’m so sorry to those families for what happened. But you have to learn to forgive. (Hmong) have had to do a lot of that.”

Forum speaker John Hildebrand, a UW-Eau Claire English professor who has written about hunting with the Hmong, said the anger many northern Wisconsin residents are feeling in the aftermath of the shootings is understandable.

But those feelings don’t justify blaming the Hmong community, Hildebrand said. He said Hmong and whites can get along despite the shootings, pointing to the racial tensions that flared in the late 1980s when some people protested Indian fishing rights at northern Wisconsin boat landings as evidence that different races can cooperate.

“I thought it would get violent then,” he said. “But it didn’t. People learned to live together.”

Dave Carlson, host of the “Northland Adventures” TV show on hunting and fishing topics, said he first hunted with Hmong this fall and found them careful, compassionate hunters. The increasingly high-stakes nature of deer hunting, not race, likely led to the shootings, he said.

“There is something wrong with deer hunting,” he said, noting some people refer to it as “nine days of hate,” adding, “We have to figure out if there’s a way to fix it.”

Kou Xiong, the state Department of Natural Resources liaison who educates Hmong hunters about regulations, said most Hmong who hunt in northern Wisconsin are from Minnesota. Besides increasing education efforts for Wisconsin Hmong hunters, he said he is trying to work with their Minnesota counterparts.

Xiong is the only DNR employee who works specifically to educate the state’s 14,000 Hmong hunters, and only half of his time is spent on those efforts. In comparison, Minnesota has five similar positions.

While the forum highlighted the need for increasing education for Hmong hunters, adding more workers like Kou Xiong isn’t likely anytime soon. A proposed 2005-07 state budget reduction calls for significantly cutting DNR personnel to help balance the budget.

“Given the present condition of the state budget, to propose a new position right now would be kind of tough,” said Dave Weitz, public affairs manager for the DNR West Central Region headquarters in Eau Claire.

Instead, he said, conservation groups around the state may raise money to pay for added hunter education efforts.

Near the meeting’s conclusion, Rademaker and Chikou Xiong spoke briefly and shook hands, a hopeful sign for coalition founding member Cynthia Gray-Mash.

“It’s at least a beginning,” she said