Disputed Waters

Disputed Waters: Native Americans and the Great Lakes Fishery

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 184
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  • Book Info
    Disputed Waters
    Book Description:

    This disturbing study of the struggle of the Chippewa and Ottawa Indians for traditional fishing rights in the Great Lakes raises legal and public policy questions that extend far beyond that region. Who owns common-property resources in the United States? Who should manage those resources and for whose benefit? Should Native Americans be accorded rights which supersede those of other citizens and restrict their economic and recreational opportunities? Can federal courts successfully resolve conflicts over resource allocation?

    In the pages of this book Robert Doherty follows the conflict from the 1960s, when Native Americans renewed their struggle to maintain their treaty rights, through to the confrontations that persist to this day. During the 1.970s the Chippewas of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, through federal court decisions, secured recognition of Native American rights to fish without state control. An ugly campaign of protest ensued, with vigilante groups and local police attempting to intimidate Chippewa and Ottawa fishermen. With the help of the Reagan administration, Michigan officials eventually circumvented the courts and regained a large measure of their former power in a negotiated agreement.

    Robert Doherty writes about these events with knowledge gained from documentary and media sources and from firsthand experience. He has been in the courts and on the beaches where confrontations took place and has interviewed many of the participants on both sides. For a while he even operated his own fishing enterprise. The result of his involvement is a provocative book, not afraid to take the side of what Doherty perceives as an oppressed minority group and to make policy recommendations to correct injustice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6274-4
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Rights, Resource Allocation, and the Fishery
    (pp. 1-6)

    On March 26, 1985, the leaders of three Chippewa and Ottawa bands signed an agreement with the United States and the state of Michigan that recognized their exclusive rights to net fish in northern Lakes Michigan and Huron. Negotiated after a bitter and sometimes violent conflict between whites and Native Americans, the agreement ended, it was hoped, a 150-year-old struggle. As of the fall of 1989, a fragile peace prevailed, but the dispute simmered on, threatening to boil over at any moment.

    Disputed Watersexamines this struggle over fishing rights as it reveals the nature of public policy making and...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Fur Trade
    (pp. 7-22)

    Chippewa and Ottawa Indians entered the fur trade in the mid-seventeenth century, shortly after white men first arrived in upper Michigan. Chippewas remained active in the trade until treaty-signing times in the 1830s, but the Ottawas ceased participating directly when they migrated to lower Michigan in the mid-eighteenth century, cut back their trapping, and became food suppliers. They continued that involvement into the early nineteenth century.

    Frenchmen controlled the fur trade in the region until their military defeat in 1760. They maintained easygoing and tolerant relationships with the Chippewas and Ottawas and often took Indian wives. Mixed-bloods soon began to...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Great Lakes Fishery, 1836-1965
    (pp. 23-37)

    Fish taken from the upper Great Lakes became a marketable commodity when the first white people arrived in the area. Indians had swapped fish for trade goods or had just given fish to newly found white “friends.” But white traders saw market opportunities.¹

    Before the whites came, Indians had maintained the fishery for thousands of years. They had fished with handcrafted gill nets from open boats. Native women worked basswood, nettle, and other natural fibers into nets, linking the strands into mesh with neatly tied sheet bends. Men fashioned cedar floats and cut grooves in small stones to be used...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Social Structure and the Forests
    (pp. 38-50)

    Lumbering and market hunting developed in much the same way as commercial fishing. The economies that grew up around these activities produced social arrangements that inhibited local autonomy and facilitated external control.

    Between 1840 and 1900, lumbermen cut down nearly all the virgin timber in Michigan. Engaged in a complex and highly competitive business, lumbermen watched the market closely so they could adjust to price swings. They could not survive without efficient cutting and sawing practices and well-timed sales. Many went broke. Big operators sometimes tried to influence prices by withholding lumber from the market, but few had enough capital...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Tourism and Sport Fishing
    (pp. 51-66)

    The advent of poverty among Michigan Chippewas and Ottawas reflected a breakdown of the fishing, hunting, and gathering system during the late nineteenth century and declining success among those Indians who competed in the white man’s economy. But the Indians soon adapted in a new combination of traditional use of natural resources and itinerant wage labor. Working at the edges of the white economy, they persisted in autonomous groups until the state decided to foster tourism as a solution to economic depression in northern Michigan. Beginning in the 1960s, the new tourist economy, partly built on a sport fishery, forced...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Chippewa and Ottawa Treaty Rights
    (pp. 67-85)

    Michigan Indians had long claimed that they had the right to hunt, fish, trap, and gather as they had in the old days and that this right was guaranteed by treaties signed with the United States in the nineteenth century. But Indian people had lacked the sophistication to press their claims. Their rights languished, and the state of Michigan eventually imposed hunting and fishing regulations on Native Americans.

    Beginning in the late 1950s, minorities all over America began to assert themselves. Blacks fought to open society to their talents and energies. But Indians wanted more than their “civil rights.” They...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Treaty Rights in the Courts
    (pp. 86-104)

    The conflict over treaty right fishing went to trial in United States District Court in 1978, after several years of maneuvering and preparation. The litigants inUnited States v. Michiganhad defined two questions for the court to answer, which became the focus of two phases of the trial: phase 1, Did modern descendants of nineteenth-century treaty signatories still have fishing rights? and phase 2, If fishing rights still existed, to how many and what kinds of fish were the Indians entitled? Based on these definitions, phase 1 involved property rights only and had nothing to do with conserving resources...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN State Efforts to Regain Control
    (pp. 105-123)

    Extralegal efforts to halt treaty-right fishing intensified after Judge Fox’s May 1979 ruling. Vigilante activity burst forth sporadically over the next several years, usually flaring up when Indians fished in new waters, but continuing to smolder even in places where they had netted for years. Threats of death and injury continued, but fortunately whites limited themselves to harassment and destruction of property. Local police and prosecutors seldom took action against vigilantes, though they frequently knew the culprit’s identity. In at least one case, law officers participated in vigilante activities.¹

    The Michigan United Conservation Clubs organized a petition campaign and a...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT With Utmost Good Faith?
    (pp. 124-139)

    Within six months of his appointment as special master, Francis McGovern had negotiated a settlement ofUnited States v. Michigan.Similar to William Hom’s 1982 Ann Arbor agreement, McGovern’s Sault Ste. Marie agreement split the fishery into zones, with the state dominating the southern waters and Indians controlling the northern commercial fishery. Overall, the Sault Ste. Marie agreement favored white interests, the state of Michigan, and big-boat Indian gill-netters, though the plan was complex and its outcome uncertain.

    On March 28, 1985, exactly 149 years after the signing of the Treaty of Washington and a month beforeUnited States v....

  13. CHAPTER NINE What Should Be Done?
    (pp. 140-151)

    Faced with an abundance seemingly without limit, hoping to subdue the continent and civilize an untamed wilderness, lumbermen, fishermen, fur traders, and their Chippewa and Ottawa associates trapped animals for furs and slaughtered them for meat; they cut trees, exhausted land, and used up resources. Once the resources were depleted, non-Indians typically moved on, while Native Americans stayed behind, making a precarious living. Self-interest and market forces dictated exploitation. Conservation, seemingly unnecessary, made no economic sense.

    The market especially fostered misuse of renewable resources such as fish, whose availability fluctuates seasonally. In spring and fall fish are easily caught, the...

  14. CHAPTER TEN Epilogue
    (pp. 152-155)

    Conflicts similar to the dispute over Chippewa and Ottawa fishing rights will continue to flare up, mostly in the form of treaty-right litigation. Indeed, a new round of hostility has already erupted between whites and Indians in the Great Lakes region.

    On February 18, 1987, Federal District Judge James C. Doyle (Western District of Wisconsin) ruled that the Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin and the western part of the Michigan upper peninsula could hunt, fish, and gather throughout their historic lands. Doyle granted access to many natural resources—the list fills three and a half double-spaced pages—and he scarcely restricted...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 156-168)
  16. Index
    (pp. 169-172)