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Treaty Rights (L30). Dr. Anton Treuer Bemidji State University. Tradition Spearfishing. Torchlight Bark canoe Wooden spear Waaswaagan (Lac du Flambeau). Culture of Harvest. Tobacco offering Feast after harvest Sustainable harvest Use everything taken, all species taken.

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Treaty rights l30

Treaty Rights (L30)

Dr. Anton Treuer

Bemidji State University

Tradition spearfishing
Tradition Spearfishing

  • Torchlight

  • Bark canoe

  • Wooden spear

  • Waaswaagan (Lac du Flambeau)

Culture of harvest
Culture of Harvest

  • Tobacco offering

  • Feast after harvest

  • Sustainable harvest

  • Use everything taken, all species taken

Modern spearfishing
Modern Spearfishing

  • Battery powered lights

  • Metal boats, metal spears

  • Still a sacred harvest, used for food rather than sport

Treaty rights in the law
Treaty Rights in the Law

  • Constitution: “treaties are the supreme law of the land”

  • Constitution: “only Congress shall regulate trade and manage affairs with the several states and various Indian tribes”

  • Treaties RETAIN rights to hunt, fish, gather on lands ceded: usufructary right

Brownston mi treaty 1808
Brownston, MI, Treaty, 1808

  • Article 4: “It is agreed that the said Indian nations shall retain the privilege of hunting and fishing on the lands given and ceded as above, so long as the same shall remain the property of the United States.”

Saginaw mi treaty 1819
Saginaw, MI, Treaty, 1819

  • Article 5: “The stipulation contained in the treaty of Greeneville, relative to the right of the Indians to hunt upon the land ceded… shall apply to this treaty.”

Sault ste marie mi treaty 1820
Sault Ste. Marie, MI, Treaty, 1820

  • Article 3: “The United States will secure to the Indians a perpetual right of fishing at the falls of St. Mary’s, and also a place of encampment on the tract hereby ceded.”

Prairie du chien wi treaty 1829
Prairie du Chien, WI, Treaty, 1829

  • Article 7: “The right to hunt on the lands hereby ceded, so long as the same shall remain the property of the United States, is hereby secured to the nations who are party to this treaty.”

Grand rapids mi treaty 1833
Grand Rapids, MI, Treaty, 1833

  • Article 3: “All the Indians residing on said reservations… shall not be disturbed in their possession, nor in hunting upon the lands as heretofore.”

La pointe wi treaty 1842
La Pointe, WI, Treaty, 1842

  • Article 2: “The Indians stipulate for the right of hunting on the ceded territory, with the other usual privileges of occupancy… until otherwise ordered by Congress.”

St peters mn treaty 1837
St. Peters, MN, Treaty, 1837

  • Article 5: “The privilege of hunting, fishing, and gathering the wild rice, upon the lands, the rivers and the lakes included in the territory ceded, is guaranteed to the Indians...”

Indian use rights denied
Indian Use Rights Denied

  • In spite of legal right to fish, hunt, and gather on ceded land, Indians were arrested, tried, convicted, and fined or imprisoned for trespass and poaching when they exercised their rights

  • Law said one thing, enforcers did another

  • More white settlement, less treaty rights – a change in practice, but not the law

  • By early 1900s, almost no off-rez harvest

Fred tribble 1974
Fred Tribble, 1974

  • Read treaties, saw the conflict between law and practice

  • Called DNR (Lac Courte Oreilles, WI), speared off rez, fined, challenged citation in court

  • 1983 Tribble won his case

Court cases
Court Cases

  • LCO v. Wisconsin (Voight decision, Tribble case), 1983: RETAINED rights could be exercised with new limits

  • Doyle decision, 1987: traditional or modern technology, environmental restraints

  • Crabb decision, 1987: Indians can take 100% of allowable catch (35% of adult fish)

  • Crabb decision, 1990: Indian can take 50% of allowable catch

Indian harvest begins again 1985
Indian Harvest Begins Again 1985

  • 85% male fish (sport fishing mainly female fish)

  • No harvest on private land

  • Always a sustainable harvest, less than 10% of court-stipulated allowance, sport fishermen took 90% of allowable catch

  • Havest limited to 117 of 861 lakes in region

  • Every fish harvested counted, gender recorded

  • Restocking program


  • Unemployment at Flambeau 50%

  • Unemployment 5% for surrounding communities

Wdnr big misunderstanding
WDNR & Big Misunderstanding

  • 41 “watched lakes” with new bag limits (2 instead of 5 walleye) due to overharvest from sport fishing in 1970s and early 1980s

  • WDNR reduced limits on only 2 of the watched lakes because of fear that reducing bag limits would harm tourism

  • WDNR reduced bag limits on all lakes where Indians speared fish and posted that it was because of Chippewa harvest

  • Appeared that Indians were harming fish population - scapegoat

Negative reactions
Negative Reactions

  • Sport fishermen mad at Indians

  • Resort owners mad at Indians

  • Indians mad at WDNR

  • Huge protests & big misunderstandings

Protest signs
Protest Signs

  • “The Only Good Injun is a Dead Injun”

  • “Our Timber is for Timber Wolves not Timber Niggers”

  • “Save a Walleye, Spear an Indian”

  • “Save Two Walleye, Spear a Pregnant Squaw”

  • Stop Treaty Abuse (STA) markets treaty beer with logo “hate in a can”

Political reaction
Political Reaction

  • Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson agrees to meet with STA and other hate groups, but refuses to meet elected tribal leaders, even stating “I believe spearing is wrong, regardless of what treaties, negotiations, or federal courts may say.”

  • Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Obey introduce treaty abrogation bills to Congress (defeated)

  • Attempted buy-out of treaty rights voted down by tribal members

Mille lacs
Mille Lacs

  • Tribe agreed to lease most of their rights to the state

  • Protest over tribal harvest caused political defeat of the buyout

  • Tribe appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won unfettered right to the entire region

Call to action
Call to Action

  • Stop violence

  • Start education

  • Understand and own the past

  • Treaties are the supreme law of the land

  • Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, “Great nations, like great men, must keep their word.”

Felix cohen
Felix Cohen

  • “Like the miner’s canary, the Indian marks the shifts from fresh air to poison gas in our political atmosphere; and our treatment of Indians, even more than our treatment of other minorities, reflects the rise and fall in our democratic faith.”