Other news from around the country
The U.S. Department of Interior has announced plans designed to expand federal fisheries management in Alaska. The regulations, scheduled to go into effect October 1, 1999 will establish federal control of almost 60% of Alaska's rivers, lakes within and alongside federal conservation lands and national forests. Dave Standcliff, chief of staff for the chairman of the Alaska House Resources Committee said "I don't think any of us are fooled to think the feds really care about Native subsistence fishing. This is just a good way to gain control of a lot of land and water."
The Idaho Attorney General is appealing a federal district court ruling that says the Coeur d'Alene Tribe owns the southern one-third of Lake Coeur d'Alene. The tribe is now imposing on all residents a $100 annual dock fees along with other fishing and boating regulations. They have also given notice to the State of Idaho that they are now claiming certain lands including a state park in the area.
The Prairie Band of Potawama Indians went to federal court to prevent the state from imposing motor fuel taxes on the tribe's planned gas station. The tribe said imposing taxes would infringe on the reservation's sovereignty.
Plans have been approved for the Red Lake walleye recovery plan. On April 9, the Red Lake Band, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Minnesota DNR signed a historic 10-year agreement to try and restore the lake's depleted walleye population. All but 48,000 of the lake's 275,000 acres lie within the Red Lake Indian Reservation. Red Lake's walleye population collapsed after years of intensive commercial gillnetting by the tribe. Under the plan there will be no walleye harvest allowed for the band of sport anglers for 10 years. Beginning this spring 500 quarts of walleye fry per year will be stacked at a cost of about $68,000 per year! Interestingly, according to all reports, the BIA will pay $40,000 and the State of Minnesota will pick up the rest. The tribal government is not contributing financially to the stocking program. According to Jack Wingate with the fisheries section of the DNR, it will be worth the state's investment. Critics of the plan question the use of walleye fry, roughly a quarter of an inch long. They argue that the lakes growing crappie population will severely diminish the number of walleye fry that survive and that fingerlings may have been a better option.
The Seneca Nation of Indians has told Grand Island area homeowners that the tribe will have the final say on possible evictions if it is successful on it's claim of Grand Island. This despite statements by the U.S. Government that homeowners need not fear removal. ( The feds have supported the Seneca in their claim.) Since Private landowners have been named as defendants in the case, many area residents are living in fear. The Seneca and the U.S. contend New York State officials violated a 1790 treaty when they purchased Grand Island from the Indians without getting approval from Congress. The case is currently in Federal Court. Home sales and new construction in the area are both suffering. The tribe's claim covers some 18,600 acres and more than 6,000 property owners.
On April 5, 1999 the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear the appeal by United Property Owners of Washington (UPOW) in the Shellfish-Tidelands litigation. This in effect lets stand a lower court ruling that grants half the shellfish on all public and private beaches to the tribes.
According to UPOW, "The courts said we were 'innocent purchasers' of our property, yet they refused to do anything to protect us. Instead the court has placed a burden on beach property owners to fulfill a federal treaty obligation..."
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a move in direct contrast with their ruling in Mille Lacs, and with the opposite effect of their inaction on the Washington Shellfish case, let stand a lower court ruling from Wisconsin that said the Menominee Tribe does not have off-reservation hunting and fishing rights. In this instance the lower courts found the plain language of the treaties to be controlling, and not the interpretation of scant historical evidence on "Indian understanding".