Fishing protest ends peacefully in Bemidji

  • Article by: DOUG SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 15, 2010 - 9:02 AM

About 100 turned out for the Lake Bemidji protest. DNR officers issued no citations, but started an investigation into illegal netting.

view larger photos

  

BEMIDJI, MINN. - On the eve of Minnesota's fishing opener and with tribal drums beating in the background, two Leech Lake Band of Chippewa members placed fishing nets in Lake Bemidji on Friday, launching a potentially contentious battle over off-reservation treaty rights.

"We're taking back our rights,'' said Aaron White Sr., 31, of Longville, who laid two nets in the lake from a small boat with his cousin, Sandy Nichols of Cass Lake.

Two hours later, Department of Natural Resources conservation officers pulled up in boats and confiscated the nets and about a dozen suckers, walleyes and northerns in them, while some band members shouted at them from shore.

"We were born with these rights,'' one hollered.

Because illegally netting fish is a gross misdemeanor, no citations were issued. Instead, the case will be turned over to the Beltrami County attorney's office, probably next week, for possible prosecution.

Organizers want to use the case to assert their belief that the 1855 treaty the Chippewa signed with the federal government doesn't restrict their off-reservation rights to fish, hunt and gather.

More than 100 band members, supporters and onlookers turned out on the lakeshore for the Stop Treaty Abuse Rally on a warm, sunny afternoon. Despite concerns that the protest could spark a confrontation, the event was peaceful.

Protesters included members of the Leech Lake and White Earth bands of Chippewa.

"We didn't give up our rights to hunt and fish in northern Minnesota [with the treaty],'' said Ken Coleman Jr. of the White Earth Band. American Indian Movement leader Dennis Banks also helped set a net. "This has been festering for a long time,'' he said later.

There was some tension when 10 DNR officers showed up in three boats and on foot. Two officers waded into the crowd on shore, answered questions, said they were there to investigate alleged illegal activities and then left.

White was angry after his nets were seized as he and his cousin were about to pull them in.

"He said, 'Give me the net.' I said, 'No,' and he cut my net,'' White said. "He destroyed 300 feet of it.'' Officers also confiscated a third net placed out by another group.

Now the issue could head to the courts, unless some agreement is reached between the bands and state. The fight could have broad implications, possibly affecting fishing on some of the state's most popular lakes and fracturing already tenuous relations between Indians and non-Indians.

That friction simmered near the surface Friday. Six white men who said they were Bemidji-area businessmen looked on with disdain at the protest, saying they didn't believe the 1855 treaty gives bands off-reservation rights. They wouldn't give their names, saying they feared reprisals. They said the case will exacerbate strained relations between the races.

"I'll cut their nets,'' one said.

And later, while band members held up treaty rights signs on the busy road nearby, some motorists honked in support, but a young white man in a pickup hurled epithets at the demonstrators as he drove past.

Coleman, the White Earth Band member, said there's a "pretty good'' relationship between Indians and whites in the region, but acknowledged the continued friction.

Sense of history strong

The case is significant because the 1855 treaty area covers a large swath of northern Minnesota and could extend beyond fishing rights to include wildlife, timber, minerals and other resources. And if the bands are successful, it's possible fishing regulations could be affected in areas heavily dependent on tourism.

"I don't think it will have any impact on tourism or fishing,'' said Denelle Cauble, executive director of the Bemidji Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Audrey Thayer of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Bemidji, a White Earth Band member, said her group supports the bands' contentions and will defend those charged. If the Chippewa win the case, they have said, they would share management of the fisheries.

Bob Shimek, a Red Lake Band member and an organizer of the protest, said the U.S. Supreme Court already has ruled that the 1855 treaty didn't abrogate the band's hunting and fishing rights. He was pleased with Friday's event.

"We accomplished our goal; we are sending a message to the world that we are reclaiming our rights.''

Doug Smith • 612-673-7667

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close