Join PERM and become part of the solution

Ten men have been indicted for the buying and selling of walleyes, according to a story by Doug Smith today in the Star Tribune. The walleyes and other fish were netted from lakes on the Red Lake and Leech Lake Indian reservations.

The illegal activity has been going on since 2009 and was considered “widespread.” In that time “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of poached fish were sold. The indictments confirmed rumors, which Grand Rapids fishing guide Tom Neustrom said “have been flying for years that band members were netting fish and selling them.”

Leech Lake Band legal director Lenny Fineday upped the number indicted saying “Between 15 and 20 individuals will likely be issued tribal citations.” He added, “Those people are either members of the Leech Lake Band or other bands.”

Highlighting PERM’s long-standing concern about using gillnets for the treaty rights harvest of game fish, Fineday emphasized that “Under the band’s conservation code, the act of netting was not illegal,” Netting is perfectly legal when it is used for “sustenance fishing.”

The Star Tribune report compared the current indictments with similar poaching allegations back in the 1990s “that led to the collapse of the walleye fishery on … Upper and Lower Red Lake.”

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A Path To Victory

The past dozen years have been discouraging for Minnesota citizens who opposed the effort by the Ojibwe Bands to reinstate the 1837 Treaty hunting and fishing rights. Many people believe that the battle ended with the United States Supreme Court’s decision in 1999 recognizing the treaty rights.

But two legal issues were not addressed by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in 1999:

  1. Whether the Indian Claims Commission Act prevents the courts from issuing an injunction barring the State of Minnesota’s enforcement of its fish and game laws.
  2. The Second Phase of the trial was never heard in the District Court or at any other level, because the State of Minnesota opted to enter into agreements or protocols with the Bands allowing the treaty harvest under the Bands’ hunting and fishing codes.

The only issues ultimately decided by the Supreme Court and District Court decisions were whether the treaty right was still in existence and whether it extended to private lands. The first issue, the Indian Claims Commission Act, has been the subject of other articles.

This will focus on the Phase II issues, which should be heard in the District Court.

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