Ojibwe Treaty Rights | Tribal Government | ENGAGE


>>We all think we know
what government is.
>>How it works
and what it does.>>But what is it really?
What do we mean
by “government”?
>>Is it this?>>Or this?
>>Are these people
the government?
>>Are you?>>These are just some
of the questions we’ll try
to answer for you today.
>>On Engage.>>Hi, I’m Zach.
>>And my name’s Paloma.
People go fishing,
not only for what they catch, but also just to relax.
>>Yeah, and everybody likes
a good fish story.
But what happens when you’re not allowed to fish, even if it’s
just to feed your own family?
>>Many years ago,
the US government signed treaties with the Wisconsin
Ojibwe tribes, which guaranteed
their rights to hunt, fish
and gather on the lands that they sold.
>>As time went by, the state
government ignored these rights,
and tribal members were fined or arrested for simply doing what
these treaties had guaranteed.
>>Then, two brothers
did some research and decided enough was enough.
They went fishing and ended up
with a very big catch.>>The lifestyle at the time
was a hunter gatherer lifestyle.
And the hunter gatherer
lifestyle could not be sustained within just the reservation
boundaries themselves.
The Chippewas knew this.
And as a part of the negotiation of the treaty, they reserved
the right to continue hunting,
fishing and gathering
in the broader territory, or in the ceded territory.
They were rights that existed in
their ownership of that property
before they sold it to the United States.
And when they sold it,
or ceded those lands
to the United States, they reserved to themselves that
piece of the property right,
to continue to hunt, fish
and gather on those lands.>>That, not only was necessary
for day to day survival
when the treaties were signed,
but over time, as Indian reservations
generally are enforced
in parts of the state, it was
needed in order to continue to have people survive.
And I mean literally survive.
>>For many of the people, it
isn’t about hunting or fishing for sport, it’s actually hunting
and fishing for subsistence.
>>We don’t hunt
for the purpose of just hunting. We hunt because we were taught
to go out and get food
and bring it home
and put it on the table.>>So, the states are Wisconsin,
Michigan and Minnesota.
That’s related
to conservation departments that we know as the DNR today.
They more or less assumed
that the states had primary
jurisdiction there.>>And just decided
that they were going to go ahead
and illegally enforce state laws
against tribal members. That did last for probably
50 to 75 years.
That didn’t stop individual
Indian people from exercising their rights.
They just developed ways and
means by which to avoid capture,
I guess, or avoid citation by the state.
>>We didn’t have lawyers.
We didn’t have money
for lawyers. We didn’t have the resources
to fight things.
>>My grandma used to get mad
at them, because one time they came into her house and
they opened up her refrigerator
and they took all the deer meat
out of her refrigerator. They arrested my dad.
>>Many tribal members were
jailed, arrested repeatedly.
Tribal members were shot. Joe White, a tribal member,
was killed by a game warden.
The game warden was acquitted
in Rice Lake in court there. But we always maintained
and knew that we had reserved
treaty rights.
The elders have always passed that on.
My grandma always told me that,
as well.
>>The Tribble brothers, I think, are a good example of
those folks in the ’60s and ’70s
who decided that, you know,
now is the time to present a legal challenge.
>>We were young guys then.
We had a tribal member named
John Anderson, who was pushing for higher education
for Native Americans.
He recruited us to go to school.
I picked a college in Duluth, Minnesota.
He introduced
an Indian Law course.
And that Indian Law course, the instructor was Larry Levinthal,
an attorney out of Minneapolis.
>>He looked around
the audience, as Larry tells the story, and
he said, “How many of you here
are Wisconsin Ojibwe?”
And a few raised their hands. He said, “Gee, it’s a shame…”
You know, that the Wisconsin
Chippewa tribes haven’t taken
a stand on this reserved rights Article in the Treaty of 1937.
>>That said they retained
the right to hunt, fish
and gather on ceded territories.>>We drove back and forth.
We would talk about this.
We’d say, how come we have to
just hunt on reservations? Why is it that we can’t go off?
And here, the treaty rights
give us the right to go off.
One day after class, we caught him in the hallway,
Larry Levinthal.
We said, “Hey, Larry, is this
what we think this means? We can go off the reservation
to hunt, fish and trap?”
And he said, “Yeah.”
“But we can’t.” “What are we going to do?”
He said, “Well, you have to have
a test case.”
“Oh, yeah? What’s a test case?
What do we have to do?”
He said, “Well, you have to
go out and get arrested.” So then, we said, “Well,
we’re going to do the test case.
We’re going to do it.”
Mike and I planned to go out. It was in the spring of 1974.
We were going to go out and,
you know, get arrested.
>>We got arrested on Chief Lake.
And on Chief Lake, there’s an
imaginary line that goes
down the middle of the lake. One side is the reservation.
The other side is off the res.
>>Every day, when we fished,
an airplane flew over. And we knew that was the state
game wardens flying over to
make sure all the fish shacks
were inside the boundaries of the reservation on Chief Lake.
So I told Mike, I said, “Well,
we’ll wait till they fly over
and we’ll move a fish shack over to off the reservation.”
So, the next morning, after we
moved the fish shack over there,
we got up real early and got out there at dawn.
Before we could do anything,
here comes the game wardens
across the ice. I had a copy of the treaty
rights in my back pocket.
I took it out and I showed it
to him. I said, “We’re not illegal here.
We’re exercising
our treaty rights.”
Well, that didn’t matter. They still gave us a citation.
So, we went to court,
got found guilty.
We were fined. The fine was stayed,
pending appeal.>>They brought their case up
through all the different levels
of the court, and all the other
Wisconsin Chippewa Bands joined in.
>>The District Court originally
said the rights do not exist.
The Appeals Court came back in January, 1983, and said that
the District Court was wrong.
They do exist.
We affirm the existence of the rights.
>>The state of Wisconsin sought
review in the US Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court refused to hear it.
When they declined,
the appellant decision stays
in effect. And the one here
is the 7th Circuit saying
this right still exists.
>>When I received the phone call, I received
the first phone call from
the Attorney General’s office.
It was a shock.>>None of the other Wisconsin
tribes were paying attention
to it.
You know, maybe something good will come of it, maybe not.
>>So, it was a surprise
to the agency.
It was going to have a tremendous impact
on operations, and
potentially natural resources.>>So it was like, okay,
now that we’ve won the case,
that these rights are reaffirmed
and they do exist, what do we do next?
>>I recall the tribal leaders
scrambling to study the treaty,
and to sit with the attorneys, and understand what the
full impact of this might be.
>>And so, the Appeals Court
sent it back down to the District Court and said, figure
out the scope of the right,
and figure out who regulates
the right.>>We didn’t know, at that time,
if Judge Doyle would be
favorable to us, or if this
would be a difficult process. Clearly, it involved
a step-by-step negotiation.
>>One of the challenges that
tribal leadership identified to me was that, you know,
how are we going to work with
the state when we don’t have
any relationship with them.>>The Secretary at the time
asked me to take the lead
in the tribal negotiations.
>>I recall that in those times, our tribal leaders
were angry with the DNR.
And the DNR
was clearly our enemy.>>There were a lot of details
that needed to be fleshed out.
What were the rights?
How would they be exercised and regulated?
In the meantime,
the tribes had the right
to implement those rights.>>I come from –, which is
known in our language
as Lac du Flambeau.
They mean the same. They mean the Lake of Torches.
I believe, back in the
16th century, when the French
Fur Traders came and they seen my people, the Ojibwe people,
out there spearing
by torch light.
When treaty rights came about, we were very aggressive
fishermen.
And Lac du Flambeau got a lot
of fish during that time. And it really ticked a lot
of people off.
(whistles blaring)
(indistinct yelling)>>What happened on the landings
is that individuals decided
that this could not
possibly be correct. Indians needed to be stopped
from harvesting fish,
particularly walleye,
particularly with spears.>>As American citizens, we
were brought up with the idea
that everyone is equal
under the law. And we had the job of educating
people about the fact that there
are other sovereign nations that
live amongst us, who in fact, own this whole country we have,
and retain that sovereignty.
So there was a separate set
of laws. And that was protected
by the federal law
and the US Constitution.
>>The people who were involved representing the state
and representing the tribes
sort of decided to put the
images that were being displayed every spring out of their mind
and just follow through on
the task they had before them,
which is, how do we decide, you know, what these harvests
are going to be.
They were able to overcome,
because they were both in this sort of baptism of fire, in the
creation of this relationship
that they didn’t have before.
>>In 1990, a federal judge ruled that the tribes and
non-Indians would equally share
the harvest of resources,
which eased some of the tensions in the north woods.
The next year, a study called
Casting Light Upon the Waters
revealed that Ojibwe spear fishing did not harm
the resource, and that fish
populations remained healthy.
To monitor and protect the health of fish, and other
resources, the Ojibwe tribes
banded together to form
the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.
>>It actually operates
as the tribes’ sort of DNR.
That’s how it came to be. We started out with just your
fish biologists, your wildlife
biologists and enforcement.
We had wardens here and there. Bare bones budget.
But now, after all these years,
we have sound science.
We count and measure, and sex and age,
all the fish that we catch.
We have absolute numbers
and the best science of any resource you can have.
>>The disturbances
of northern Wisconsin
are long gone and forgotten. That’s good for the state
of Wisconsin.
>>So, things today with the DNR
are a lot different than they were back then.
The bottom line is,
we’re here for the resource.
And once we figured that out, and partnered up, instead of
spending money on lawyers,
you’re putting it
into the resource.>>For more information,
visit us on the Web at:
ecb.org/engage

One Reply to “Ojibwe Treaty Rights | Tribal Government | ENGAGE”

  1. So the government needs to honor treaties written hundreds of years ago but the fund du lac tribe doesn't have to honor a agreement with Duluth.

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