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

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota - LP: J. Burton 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: A. Miller 3
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 7 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: B. Colon 2
Miami - WP: J. Cosart 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: A. Harang 0
Boston - LP: A. Webster 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: J. Odorizzi 7
Cleveland - WP: J. Tomlin 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: S. Downs 2
Detroit - WP: K. Ryan 8 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Bassitt 4
Texas - LP: P. Klein 0 FINAL
Houston - WP: S. Feldman 2
Colorado - WP: T. Matzek 2 FINAL
Arizona - LP: V. Nuno 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wada 2 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: M. Gonzales 13
Los Angeles - LP: J. Wright 1 FINAL
San Diego - WP: T. Stauffer 2
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Peavy 3
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: Y. Herrera 2
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 3 FINAL
Seattle - LP: R. Elias 1
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 FINAL
(12) Georgia 45
Liberty 29 FINAL
(23) North Carolina 56
Ohio U 17 FINAL
Kent State 14
Louisiana Tech 16 FINAL
(4) Oklahoma 48
Stephen F Austin 16 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 55
Fresno State 13 FINAL
(15) USC 52
Southern Miss 0 FINAL
Miss State 49
Texas-El Paso 31 FINAL
New Mexico 24
North Texas 7 FINAL
Texas 38
(1) Florida State 37 FINAL
Oklahoma State 31
(14) Wisconsin 24 FINAL
(13) LSU 28
Idaho 0 Postponed
Florida 0
South Dakota 13 4th Qtr 0:06
(3) Oregon 62
(25) Washington 17 4th Qtr 1:39
Hawaii 16
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
FC Dallas 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
San Jose 1
Portland 3 FINAL
Vancouver FC 0
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Chicago 70 FINAL
Indiana 77
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