US Army Corps on Great Lakes Treaty Subsistence Fishing

Last summer, the US Army Corps published a report titled “Treaty Rights and Subsistence Fishing in the U.S. Waters of the Great Lakes, Upper Mississippi River, and Ohio River Basins.” It’s well worth a read, especially for those tribes that did not respond to the Corps’ efforts to contact them. The authors wrote whatever they found online in  such cases, and we wonder how accurate those descriptions are.

For example, Menominee Tribe is listed as a non-treaty tribe. For all we know, this may be accurate. But this 1968 Supreme Court case suggests that it is not accurate.

An excerpt from the report:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in consultation with other state and federal agencies and Native American tribes, is conducting the Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study (GLMRIS) pursuant to the Section 3061(d) of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007. GLMRIS will explore options and technologies, collectively known as aquatic nuisance species (ANS) controls that could be applied to prevent ANS transfer between the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and Ohio River Basins through aquatic pathways. As defined in the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990, 16 U.S.C. § 4702(1), ANS are nonindigenous species that threaten the diversity or abundance of native species; or the ecological stability of infested waters; or commercial, agricultural, aquacultural, or recreational activities that depend on such waters. In support of GLMRIS, the USACE GLMRIS Fisheries Economics Team is conducting baseline studies of fisheries in the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, and Ohio River Basins. This study focuses on a unique sector of the fisheries — the subsistence fishery undertaken by Native American tribes under treaty rights.

Charles Cleland’s New Book: “Faith in Paper: The Ethnohistory and Litigation of Upper Great Lakes Indian Treaties”

Charles Cleland’s heavily anticipated new book (Univ. of Michigan Press website here) is now available! I’ve read the first few chapters and it’s wonderful.

Here is the book blurb:

Faith in Paper examines the reinstitution of Indian treaty rights in the upper Great Lakes region during the last quarter of the twentieth century, focusing on the treaties and legal cases that together have awakened a new day in Native American sovereignty and established the place of Indian tribes in the modern political landscape. The book discusses the development of Indian treaties in historic time and their social and legal context; specific treaties regarding hunting, fishing, and gathering rights as well as reservation issues; and the impact of treaty litigation on the modern Indian and non-Indian communities of the Great Lakes region. The book is both an important contribution to the scholarship of Indian legal matters and a rich resource for Indians themselves as they strive to retain or regain rights that have eroded over the years.

And here is the Traverse City Record-Eagle news coverage of the release of the book. An excerpt:

Written over the last five years, this 390-page book is the first comprehensive examination of 18 primary and 21 secondary treaty court cases in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Cleland was the only person to be involved in all of the cases.

The decisions significantly changed perceptions of Native American tribes and their fishing, hunting and gathering rights, Cleland said.

The treaties gave Native Americans a different status under the law than other Americans, he said. Native Americans had always had fishing, hunting and gathering rights. The rights were not granted by the state or federal government.

“The string of court victories gave today’s Indians a legitimacy in the eyes of the larger population,” Cleland said. “It gave them a newfound political sovereignty, real clout and power.”

State governments claimed the treaties were “dead” and irrelevant at the time the cases were filed.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources argued that the state had a right to regulate tribal fishermen who used gill nets because Michigan had banned the nets in the 1960s.

State attorneys also claimed that the nets were not native technology but introduced by the French in the early 17th century.

But Cleland’s 1966 dissertation, “The Prehistoric Animal Ecology and Ethnozoology of the Upper Great Lakes Region,” noted that Michigan’s earliest Native Americans had been using the nets at least 1,000 years before European contact.

U.S. District Judge Noel Fox reaffirmed treaty rights for Michigan’s federally recognized Ottawa and Chippewa tribes in a landmark 1979 ruling.