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Capitol Sportsmen Chapter of Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association
About ten percent of Minnesota’s 475,000 registered hunters are MDHA members. It is the hope of chapter founders that with the extreme need for a unified voice among the 10,000 Hmong hunters, nearly a quarter of the population, and other Asian and Pacific Islanders, that live in an around the metro area, will join the chapter and work on key issues of interest and help prevent incidents like the two separate racially motivated hunting murders in Wisconsin in the past two years.
Chapter President Pajtsheng Vang, and Executive Director, John Ny Vang, organized the meeting and established a board of directors.
The organization received $500 from the MDHA to start their account and the organization start date would be Sunday, February 11, 2007. The first order of business was this meeting to explain the purpose of the chapter, to elect board officer, and set the agenda for the next meeting.
Txong Pao Lee will serve as vice president. Kong Vu is the secretary. Tony Perez is the treasurer. The remaining Board Members include Kole Yang, Koua Moua, Cheng S. Vang, John X. Vang and Joseph S. Vang.
“We need help from the MDHA to address and end race or trespassing related hunter confrontations in the field,” said Pajtsheng Vang. “As an MDHA chapter, they have an established relationship to educate fellow hunters on culture to assist that goal.
This is a good networking relationship to help prevent incidents such as happened in Wisconsin, and less deadly but equally troublesome incidents in both states.
State Representative Cy Thao (DFL-65A) was present to support the organization.
“I am honored to be part of this organization,” said Thao, who praised the founding members for their support at the capitol with hunting issues, and hoped that the chapter would have an active role in policymaking.
Tou Ger Xiong and VaMeng Thoj of Mayor Chris Coleman’s office were also present. They are members of the Coalition for Community Relations (CCR), a group of concerned citizens promoting justice, civil rights and racial understanding in the aftermath of the two hunting murders and hate backlash incidents.
VaMeng Thoj said the organization will be the face of Hmong hunters and that it is a good beginning for a lot of work ahead to ensure the Hmong people know that they have the same rights and access to natural resources as does the mainstream population.
“The mainstream thinks we kill everything and don't respect property,” said Thoj. “There is always one bad person, White or Hmong, and that is not true of the rest of us.”
Tou Ger Xiong spoke about the organization and its role with the media, and as a community voice. He spoke of membership dues and fundraising opportunities.
The tentative mission statement will be the first order of business at the next meeting. Their main goals are with protecting and preserving the right of every outdoors sportsmen in pursuing the tradition of rifle and archery hunting and fishing.
The chapter will provide firearms and archery safety training. They will edcucate hunters on the lawful use of private and public lands, and promote safety and respect for other outdoors sportsmen, all wildlife, and the environment. This includes the acquisition of land with a suitable habitat for wildlife.
A unique component of the chapter will be to serve as a cultural bridge organization to other chapters and the DNR, including an educational program for Hmong and Caucasian hunters that addresses issues related to community conflicts and animosity between the two groups.
“It takes time and patience for people to create dialogue and to get their point across,” said Mark Johnson, executive director, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (www.mndeerhunters.com), who met with a core group to form the chapter two weeks ago, and they hope to finalize the mission statement and other requirements now that the board has been formed.
Johnson said that each chapter decides its own mission, and that means that it sets its own criteria within the mission of the MDHA. The new chapter will be able to tailor information to teach new Americans about the environmentally balance focus of the State DNR regulations and the spirit of conservation and protection of the environment that is central to the American hunting culture.
“It won’t be a racially oriented chapter,” said Johnson, “it is open to the public.”
MDHA was founded in 1980 to achieve the best possible herd in Minnesota. It has 20,000 members in 65 chapters. It is presently about 95 percent Caucasian, according to Johnson, who feels that it is important that the separate chapters have some autonomy but need to have a sense of fellowship that is equal among them.
“From the standpoint of hunting in general, we cannot survive if we allow a redneck mentality or a racial separation,” said Johnson. “The fellowship of hunters has to be primary in all of our minds and we all have to be tolerant of one another.”
Johnson is pleased that the Hmong hunters are already active with bringing their messages to policymakers, and hopes that they will add their voice to the MDHA’s lobbying effort to address the problems of land access, habitat and other hunter issues.
The camps will also help eliminate the racial and language barriers that has led to tensions and tragedies in Wisconsin. Johnson feels that the lack of public hunting land in Wisconsin is largely to blame, and that in Minnesota, much of the corporate held land that was available for hunting is now being sold or leased and no longer available.
“We are very much in tune with youth education, hunter education, habitat and access to hunting and shooting facilities,” said Johnson.
With more diversity coming into the organization, the MDHA youth education initiative will blend urban and rural youth of many backgrounds in their Forkhorn Camps.
The summer camps provided 500 youth ages 11 to 16 (mostly on MDHA scholarships) the chance to attend camps for beginning hunters. They get extensive hands-on instruction with basic firearms and archery safety and hunting tips for both big and small game. They will earn their Minnesota Firearms Safety Certificate by the end of camp.
The Level II camp follows and includes the Bow Hunter Certificate, and subsequent camps offer advanced hunter education certificates and techniques, as well as hunter ethics curriculum.
Tony Perez, treasurer, and the sole Pacific Islander member, came from Guam in 1968 and has worked for 3M the past 33 years. An avid outdoorsman who goes out of his way to accommodate other hunters and the habitat, Perez said that he is always getting the look from other hunters.
When he met Pajtsheng Vang, and accompanied his family on a bow hunting trip, he noticed how the other hunters looked at the group indifferently. He said that hunter and environmental education would get around a lot of the cultural barriers by teaching the positive aspects of preservation, as a voice, and networking group.
“This organization presents a lot of opportunities educate people,” said Perez. “I am excited about putting together an education component that teaches the importance of protecting our fish and wildlife, and also that it will work for the first time with the issues of culture.
“It is a common platform and a welcoming community environment for hunters to have a voice and become unified with other hunters,” he added.
Advisors to the MDHA Capitol Chapter include DNR SEA Outreach Program Director Josee Cung, and Tong Lee, Hmong Liaison, Vang Lee, DNR Conservation Officer, Tou Ger Xiong and VaMeng Thoj.
The temporary office for the MDHA Capitol Chapter will be 995 University Avenue, Suite 215, St. Paul, MN 55104. Phone 651-643-0520.
©2007 Asian American Press