Tribe Members Plan To Fish Day Before Opener
Tribal members from two Minnesota reservations plan to fish with spears and gill nets to call attention to fishing rights they believe were guaranteed by a treaty signed more than 150 years ago.
White Earth tribal member and attorney Frank Bibeau says that White Earth and Leech Lake members plan to go out on Lake Bemidji Friday, the day before the state’s official fishing opener. Bibeau says the protesters want to get cited or arrested and then press the issue in court.
Tribal members tried a similar approach three years ago. A confrontation near Brainerd led to charges but no changes in the state’s position that it’s illegal to gillnet off reservation. Eight years ago, the group held a similar event on Lake Bemidji and about 100 tribal members took part.
Chris Niskanen, the DNR Chief Communications Officer, says the DNR position is that off-reservation harvest rights do not exist in the 1855 treaty area and that state laws will be upheld.
“Persons who violate state law will be subject to enforcement action that may include warnings, citations, seizure of fishing equipment, nets, and spears,” said Niskanen.
(The Associated Press provided portions of this article.)