A federal appeals court ruling upheld their rights to hunt, fish and gather off-reservation
By Danielle Kaeding
Wisconsin Public Radio
More than four decades ago, Mark Duffy’s dad Joe would fish in northern Wisconsin lakes at night, hoping to avoid being seen by game wardens. Duffy, a member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, said his father was a harvester and provider for the community. But, at the time, tribal members were arrested and thrown in jail if they were caught fishing outside of their reservations.
"These people started out there to continue a tradition and a way of life. Using the natural resources that are gifted to us is part of our life," Duffy said. "And he was one of the people out there doing that and doing it in a way that the state of Wisconsin would have called him a poacher."
Chippewa or Ojibwe tribes in northern Wisconsin had harvested fish from inland lakes for centuries. Even so, tribal members struggled to practice their rights to hunt, fish and gather on lands and waters outside their reservations.
But 40 years ago, that began to change, when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Lake Superior Chippewa tribes had the right to fish, hunt and gather off-reservation on lands ceded to the federal government under the 1837 and 1842 treaties.
On Wednesday, northern Wisconsin tribes and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, or GLIFWC, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the decision in Hayward.