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The 50th anniversary of the Boldt Decision is a celebration of Native leadership - US Government vs Indians the Fish Wars.

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  kavika  •  one month ago  •  5 comments

The 50th anniversary of the Boldt Decision is a celebration of Native leadership - US Government vs Indians the Fish Wars.

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Luna Reyna
ICT +  Underscore News

Billy Frank Jr.’s father used to tell him, “When the tide is out, the table is set.” Frank Jr. grew up in a small house on the Nisqually River, where glacier water from Mount Rainier flows into the Puget Sound. Traditional fishing knowledge was passed down to Frank Jr. who caught his first fish at 11 years old. Just four years later, on a brisk winter morning in 1945, everything changed. In the first light of daybreak, dog salmon and steelhead with its glowing pink belly slapped their bodies against Frank Jr’s fifty-foot net as he pulled them ashore.




Soon after he heard, “You’re under arrest!” yelled by state game wardens.

“Leave me alone, goddamn it,” Frank Jr. a Nisqually Indian Tribe citizen, and one of the leaders of what is now known as the Fish Wars   told them . “I fish here. I live here!”

The first time Frank Jr. was arrested for fishing in his traditional waters he was just 14. This arrest motivated young Frank Jr. to become the impactful activist needed to change the treatment of Native fishers and fight back for his fishing rights. Frank Jr. became a leader of what is now referred to as the “Fish Wars.” The activism of tribal members during the Fish Wars, inspired by the civil rights movement at the time, led to a lawsuit that affirmed the treaty rights of over a dozen Native nations in what is now Washington state.





In 1973, U.S. District Judge George Boldt ruled in   U.S. v. Washington   that treaties guaranteed the right to half the fishing harvest for more than a dozen Native nations in what is now Washington state. It also mandated a new era of co-management and conservation between sovereign Native governments and city and state governments. The ruling re-affirmed that treaties are the “supreme law of the land” under the Constitution. Fifty years later, this decision has created a ripple effect of progress for Native nations across what is now the United States.




Governor Isaac Stevens, who drafted the treaties that were party to the Boldt decision, aimed to move Washington Native nations onto small reservations to free up land for white settlement, according to historical documents written by Stevens himself. Many nations understood that their choice was to sign a treaty or choose war.

“What’s the use for Indians to fight whites?” one Salish leader asked. “White get big guns; lots of ammunition, kill off all soldiers, more come. Better sign and get some other way.” The leader was quoted by Charles Wilkinson in his book   Treaty Justice: The Northwest Tribes, the Boldt Decision, and the Recognition of Fishing Rights , which published in January. Nisqually fishing rights activist Billy Frank Jr. asked Wilkinson to write the book, chronicling the years of activism that led up to the Boldt decision.




Despite this dire choice, many Native nations still would not sign the treaties without guaranteed off-reservation fishing rights. So, the right to take fish, “at all usual and accustomed grounds” was secured by treaties signed in the mid-1800s.

By the 1950s, Native nations had endured violent assimilation policies like the Dawes Act that made Native religions, languages, education and health practices illegal. The boarding school era had forcibly removed Native children from their families and abused them to “kill the Indian, save the man.” The General Allotment Act broke up reservation lands, allotted plots of lands to individual citizens of those Native nations, and gave “surplus lands” to non-Natives. The Indian Relocation Act that promised Native people jobs if they moved to the city and left their lands – promises that often failed to materialize. And termination of the federal government’s relationship with treaty nations and selling of their land were devastating.




The impact of these assimilation policies meant that at least   60 percent   of Native people living on reservations were living in poverty. Washington state was claiming to regulate Native fishing for conservation purposes, hindering the ability to fish for sustenance, livelihood, and traditional ways of life. Before settlement, the Pacific Northwest produced more protein per acre than any other place in what’s now considered North America, according to Wilkinson. Due to the development of fish canneries and the commercial fishing industry, salmon had dramatically declined. Excessive harvest, as well as habitat degradation, irrigation, mining, logging, water pollution and the construction of dams had major impacts.







From left, Randy Harder, Billy Frank Jr., Terry Williams, Jim Harp attend a congressional hearing in Washington D.C. (Courtesy of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.)




According to Herman Olson, a Lummi fisherman, the canneries would come and put their traps right off Lummi Island to catch salmon and push Lummi fishers out.

By the early 1960s, “tribal fishers were taking only 6 percent of the total Puget Sound harvest while sport fishers took 8.5 percent and commercial fishers took 85.5 percent,” according to Wilkinson. Yet state agencies began arresting Native fisherman for fishing in their treaty-guaranteed fishing areas. Commercial and sport fishers violently targeted them as well.




Native fishers had their nets slashed or stolen. Their boats were also vandalized or stolen and they were even threatened with guns.

“I was fishing with my son and a white man’s boat came right toward my net line and ran over it and cut it all up,” Lummi citizen Ted Plaster told Wilkinson. “They do that all the time to Indians… They think they own all the fish.”

The Fish Wars


Going to the police was not an option for Native fishermen who were on the receiving end of police raids and arrests that included brutal beatings. Many of the fishermen were veterans of World War II or the Korean War and aligned with the Black Panther Party, whose members were utilizing their right to bear arms to protect their communities. The civil rights movement’s tactics were inspiring to Native people whose rights were also being violated and that resulted in mutual solidarity. Because of the violence they faced, Native fishermen armed themselves to guard their nets, boats and often, their livelihood.




“To defend our rights, tribes mounted a nonviolent resistance effort patterned after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategy in his civil rights campaign,” Frank Jr.   wrote . “We marched with Dr. King, and when we returned home, we continued the struggle by protesting, getting arrested, getting out of jail and doing it all over again.”




In the 1960s, Native Americans and their supporters began protesting Washington State laws restricting Native American fishing rights that had been granted in a series of treaties with the United States between 1854 and 1855. The Survival of the American Indian Society (SAIA), the NAACP, and the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC), coordinated a series of protests and peaceful demonstrations known at the time collectively as the "fish wars," which eventually led to the Boldt Decision (United States v. Washington, 1974), a federal ruling guaranteeing Washington tribes the right to fish in accustomed places and the right to act alongside the state as co-managers of salmon and other fish in the region. In this image, Makah tribal dancers entertain a crowd of Native Americans and their supporters in the rotunda of the State Capitol building in Olympia. The crowd was waiting to hear from Washington State Governor Albert Dean "Al" Rosellini (1910-2011), to whom they had submitted a one-page "protest proclamation" signed by most tribes in the state asking the governor to honor treaty rights by immediately halting arrests of Native Americans for illegal fishing off reservations. The governor said that he had no choice but to carry out conservation policies approved by the courts. (Courtesy of MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.4415.2)







Black civil rights activists used sit-ins, a nonviolent form of civil disobedience where people raised awareness about racial discrimination by gathering in “whites only” businesses until they were forcibly removed. Similarly, Native people started holding fish-ins where they notified the media and simply fished at their traditional sites until they were forcibly removed.

The first fish-in was on March 1, 1964 on the Puyallup River. The following day another was held at the Nisqually River with Frank Jr. From the time he was 14 until the end of the Fish Wars he would be arrested over 50 times.




At one of the fish-ins,   a newscaster asked him : “If you had to put it in a sentence, what is it that you want in the long run?”

Frank Jr. replied: “What we want is to regain and to retain our treaty rights.”




In the 1960s and 1970s, Native Americans and their supporters began protesting Washington State laws restricting Native American fishing rights that had been granted in a series of treaties with the United States between 1854 and 1855. The Survival of the American Indian Society (SAIA), the NAACP, and the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC), coordinated a series of protests and peaceful demonstrations known at the time collectively as the "fish wars," which eventually led to the Boldt Decision (United States v. Washington, 1974), a federal ruling guaranteeing Washington tribes half the state's salmon and steelhead trout catch. The Muckleshoot Tribe near Auburn, Washington, engaged in a series of protests intended to preserve Muckleshoot fishing rights in nearby rivers that were not within the official reservation. County and state authorities had tried to regulate their fishing off-reservation. On May 4, 1970, members of the Muckleshoot Tribe entered the Green River near the Auburn Golf Course with nets and gaff hooks to assert their right to fish in the river. A game warden acted as an observer but did not intervene in the peaceful protest. The group caught 2 salmon over the course of the day. (Courtesy of MOHAI, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 1986.5.52952.17, photo by Tom Barlet.)







By 1970, tensions and violence against the protesters at the fish-ins were at an all time high but the cause had also gained much more support. A six-week long fish-in where hundreds of people, Native and non-Native allies, camped in a peaceful protest at Frank’s Landing on the Puyallup River made national headlines when Tacoma police raided the camp.

The camp was located near the Pacific Avenue Bridge in Tacoma. Police lined the bridge with rifles pointed at the peaceful protesters. Other officers in riot helmets used tear gas and billy clubs against the people at the camps, including children and elders. Sixty people were handcuffed, beaten and dragged into police cars to be arrested.




The Boldt Decision


Stan Pitkin, a prosecuting attorney, sat under the bridge with other observers when the police threw tear gas into the crowd and dragged Native fisherman to jail. Just nine days after experiencing being tear gassed and witnessing the violence, Pitkin filed United States v. State of Washington. The lawsuit asserted that the State of Washington was infringing on Native treaty rights.




President Nixon had also just announced an end to the   termination era .

It took three years for the case to be heard. In that time, another seven Native nations joined the lawsuit against the state and the Washington Department of Fisheries. Other state agencies also joined as defendants. For the trial, anthropologists, biologists, fishery management and other experts submitted 350 exhibits and 49 witnesses testified, much of it to better understand Native cultures and the treaties.







David Getches and John Echohawk at the NARF offices in Boulder, Colo., in the 1970s. (Courtesy of Native American Rights Fund.)




On Feb. 12, 1974,  Judge Boldt ruled   that the Native nations who signed the treaties that were reviewed in the case could take up to half the catch each year. In addition, non-Native fishing could also be limited for conservation purposes.

“There is no indication that the Indians intended or understood the language ‘in common with all citizens of the Territory’ to limit their right to fish in any way,” Boldt said in his ruling.




“It was just such a great victory,” John Echohawk, Pawnee, co-founder and executive director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), told ICT + Underscore News.




Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission staff collect salmon for a tagging study at the Lower Elwha Klallam Hatchery in 1979. (Courtesy of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.)




It was not only a victory for the Native nations included in the case. Now, there was legal precedent acknowledging the primacy of treaty rights and the sovereignty of each Native nation. Based on the ruling, NARF took up cases like   United States versus Michigan , where the Bay Mills Indian Community was fighting for fishing rights in the Great Lakes, in addition to many other lawsuits on behalf of tribes across the country who needed to bring cases to federal court to enforce their treaty rights.




“There was collaboration between the Michigan tribes and the Washington tribes on that,” Echohawk said. “They learned from each other.”


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Kavika
Professor Principal
1  seeder  Kavika     one month ago

The ''fish wars'' erupted across the US between Native Americans and the states and federal government. Treaties were broken, Natives were attacked for exercising their rights by treaty. During this time period the NA civil rights movement became nationwide and the results favored NA's and one of the very most important ones was the ''Boldt Decision''. 

In the 70s/80s/90s the Walleye Wars of Wisconsin and Minnesota erupted and this again was settled in court in our favor by the ''Voigt Decision'' later upheld by SCOTUS. 

The ''wars'' were very ugly shootings, attacks and very racist, in Wisconsin and Minnesota the popular racist signs were, ''Save a Walleye Spear a Squaw'' or ''Save Two Walleye Spear a Pregnant Squaw'' Attacks on Native were common and most of just carried guns or hickory ax handles, great close combat weapon.

To this day in WI and MN we still have attacks on Native or fishing rights. 

In Washington, all of the arrests of Indians were termed illegal so they had a felony on their records which was never removed and they spent their entire lives as criminals...

Billy Frank JR was a determined leader and simply would not back down. Marlon Brando was a supporter of Natives in the ''Fish Wars'' both with money and his presence in which he was arrested and jailed.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @1    one month ago

reading this just worsens my attitude towards those that still cannot grasp the basic concept of equality in america.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.1.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @1.1    one month ago
reading this just worsens my attitude towards those that still cannot grasp the basic concept of equality in america.

There are still a lot of them out there, devan and they prove it everyday.

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.1.2  devangelical  replied to  Kavika @1.1.1    one month ago

yeah. this is usually where I get a ToS ticket, so no comment...

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.1.3  seeder  Kavika   replied to  devangelical @1.1.2    one month ago

LOL

 
 

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