Loew, Patty and James Thannum
After the Storm: Ojibwe Treaty Rights Twenty-Five Years after the Voigt Decision
The American Indian Quarterly - Volume 35, Number 2, Spring 2011, pp. 161-191
University of Nebraska Press
Original Date

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In April 2009, when Ojibwe tribal members Neil and Chris Peterson traveled to Trout Lake to spear walleye pike in a centuries-old tribal tradition, the boat landing was quiet. There were no rock-throwing crowds, no gauntlets of angry demonstrators to walk, and no television reporters to dodge. No one attempted to swamp their boat. Absent were signs that read "Save a Fish, Spear an Indian." Twenty-five years ago, when Ojibwe spearfishers, like the Peterson brothers, attempted to harvest their walleyes, northern Wisconsin boat landings were battlegrounds of chaos and violence. The struggle involved the exercise of hunting, fishing, and gathering rights reserved in three mid-nineteenth-century land cession treaties the Ojibwe negotiated with the federal government. In 1974 the Ojibwe initiated a successful lawsuit against the state of Wisconsin, arguing that the state had systematically suppressed those rights throughout the twentieth century. However, when the modern Ojibwe walleye harvest began in 1985, angry mobs attempted to prevent tribal spearers from exercising their treaty rights in what one tribal member described as a "war-like, siege-like occupation." It became clear to the Ojibwe that opposition to their court-affirmed treaty rights was not limited to the recent actions of treaty opponents in northern Wisconsin. It was part of an ongoing nationwide struggle typified by the "fish-ins" of the 1960s, when Indian nations in the Northwest reaffirmed their treaty fishing rights along the Columbia River. As in the Northwest, antitreaty groups in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota failed to understand that when tribes ceded land and retained off-reservation harvesting rights on those lands and waters, they had established contractual obligations with the United States. This failure to acknowledge that the age of a contract does not impact its validity laid the foundation for....