Reviving Ojibwe spiritual traditions, one pet at a time

  • Rick Haaland of Bena, Minn., poses for a portrait on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Haaland is the Community Outreach Manager for the Leech Lake Tribal Police. He and his fellow Ojibwe community members have been leading efforts to care for animals, something centrally important to Native American spiritual beliefs and traditions. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Leech Lake Legacy Director Jenny Fitzer, right, takes notes as vet tech Kris Stresemann of Minneapolis calms 17-year-old Lilly at the Legacy's clinic in Cass Lake, Minn., Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Lilly's owner regularly brings her in to have a cyst on her tail drained, for wellness checks and for nail trimming. For a decade, the nonprofit has been bringing veterinary services and taking away surrendered animals on the Leech Lake Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • A recently surrendered dog waits patiently in the Leech Lake Legacy clinic in Cass Lake, Minn., on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. The dog will be spayed, given shots and then placed with a new owner. For a decade, the nonprofit has been bringing veterinary services and taking away surrendered animals on the Leech Lake Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Dr. Paul Anderson spays a female dog in the mobile surgical van on Nov. 21 in Cass Lake, Minn. He is a “High Volume Spay and Neuter” doctor who contracts with the Leech Lake Legacy. For a decade, the nonprofit has been bringing veterinary services and taking away surrendered animals on the Leech Lake Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Rick Haaland holds a door for Preston Lassman as Elaine Fleming brings straw to be used in a large shelter on the front of Elaine's house in Cass Lake, Minn., on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Elaine takes in stray and abandoned cats that often show up at her house to seek shelter. Haaland and Fleming have been leading efforts among their fellow Ojibwe community members to care for animals, something centrally important to Native American spiritual beliefs and traditions. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Elaine Fleming, of Cass Lake, Minn., stands outside of her home where she takes in stray and abandoned cats. In the background, friends Rick Haaland and Preston Lassman stuff straw under Elaine's front steps to provide shelter for the cats on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Fleming and Haaland have been leading efforts among their fellow Ojibwe community members to care for animals, something centrally important to Native American spiritual beliefs and traditions. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Vet tech Amber Portillo of Minneapolis, prepares a female dog to be spayed in the mobile surgical van at the Leech Lake Legacy clinic in Cass Lake, Minn., Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. For a decade, the nonprofit has been bringing veterinary services and taking away surrendered animals on the Leech Lake Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • An aerial view of Cass Lake, Minn., Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Cass Lake has a population of 753 as of 2018 and is on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Devin Robinson, 16, and his sister Selena Rushman, 17, both of Cass Lake, Minn., wait with their dog Sweetie outside the Leech Lake Legacy clinic, Sunday. They had brought some of Sweetie’s puppies in for a wellness check and shots. For a decade, the nonprofit has been bringing veterinary services and taking away surrendered animals on the Leech Lake Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Leech Lake Legacy volunteer Engress Clark carries a kennel with some of the kittens that were abandoned in Cass Lake, Minn., Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Fifteen kittens were found in a plastic tote left in the local Walmart parking lot. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

  • Leech Lake Legacy volunteers Cindy Ojczyk, left, and Engress Clark unload a kennel with some of the kittens that were abandoned in Cass Lake, Minn., Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Fifteen kittens were found in a plastic tote left in the local Walmart parking lot and were brought to the Legacy's clinic. For a decade, the nonprofit has been bringing veterinary services and taking away surrendered animals on the Leech Lake Reservation. (AP Photo/Jack Rendulich)

CASS LAKE, Minnesota — Animal neglect used to be such a problem on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, with basic services like sterilization out of reach for many due to poverty and remoteness, that packs of stray dogs would sometimes bring traffic to a halt on the main highway.