Thursday, February 2nd, 2023
Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Inland agreement finalized with tribes

Traverse City, Mich. – The tentative agreement on tribal inland
hunting and fishing rights has been approved. U.S. District Judge
Richard Enslen signed the agreement on Nov. 5 between the state and
federal governments and five American Indian tribes.

“We believe that from the state’s and tribe’s points of view, it
is a good agreement. Both sides were pretty much able to get
everything they wanted,” said Jim Ekdahl, the DNR’s specialist on
tribal issues.

“From a sportsman’s perspective, their world will not change.
Seasons will be the same, creel and bag limits will remain the
same,” he said. “We’re dealing with harvestable surpluses, which is
what the tribes are going to use.”

Under the agreement, tribes will be allowed to regulate hunting,
fishing, and gathering by their members, while state hunting and
fishing regulations and bag limits remain relatively unchanged.

Ekdahl said the agreement also will open lines of communication
between the DNR and the tribes.

“They have their own professional biological staffs much like we
do,” he said. “We will learn from what their biologists discover
and they’ll learn from what we discover. I expect the law
enforcement agencies to be cooperative as well. We’ve already had
good cooperation just in the implementation stages.”

Negotiations on inland hunting, fishing, and gathering rights
claimed by the tribes under the 1836 Treaty of Washington have been
ongoing since 2003 between the state and federal governments and
five Indian tribes – the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa
Indians; the Bay Mills Indian Community; the Little Traverse Bay
Bands of Odawa Indians; the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and
Chippewa Indians; and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

Several conservation groups including Michigan United
Conservation Clubs, the U.P. Whitetails Association, and Bays de
Noc Great Lakes Sportfishermen were granted amici status during the
negotiations.

The 1836 Treaty of Washington covers the eastern Upper Peninsula
and the northern and western third of the Lower Peninsula, above a
line extending roughly from Alpena down to the mouth of the Grand
River. The treaty area covers about 4.5 million acres.

The negotiations were initiated in 1976 following a Michigan
Supreme Court ruling that said the 1836 Treaty of Washington still
survives and that the Indian tribes had reserved rights with
respect to hunting and fishing in the treaty area. Federal courts
have ruled that treaties are the supreme law of the land under the
U.S. constitution and that the United States treat Indian tribes as
sovereign governments in their own right.

Negotiations with tribes over Great Lakes fishing under the 1836
treaty were settled with the Consent Decree of 2000.

“This historic document seeks to balance the rights of
Michigan’s 1836 Treaty tribes with the rights of other Michigan
citizens who value and enjoy the state’s precious inland woods,
lakes, streams, plants and other natural resources,” the Sault Ste
Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians said in a press release. “The Sault
Tribe greatly appreciates the efforts of all other individuals and
organizations that are involved in the negotiations.”

Some of the highlights of the inland treaty agreement include:
The use of gill nets and snagging is prohibited by tribal members;
tribal commercial harvest is prohibited; tribal members will be
allowed to spear walleyes, chinook salmon, and steelhead, but with
restrictions; tribal members may have up to four lines in open
water and seven lines while ice fishing; most spawning closures
will be recognized by the tribes; tribal members may use trap nets
and seines on inland lakes, and spearing of Atlantic salmon is
prohibited.

On the hunting side of the issue: Tribal members may hunt
white-tailed deer with a firearm beginning the day after Labor Day
through Nov. 1, and again Nov. 15-Jan. 1; they may use archery
equipment Nov. 1-Nov. 14; and the bag is five deer, but no more
than two antlered bucks, and only one antlered deer may be taken
prior to Nov. 1.

The spring turkey season for tribal members will be April 15
through June 15, and tribal members may take two bearded turkeys.
The tribe’s fall any-sex turkey hunt will run Oct. 1-Nov. 14.

Tribal members will get an additional 10 percent of the elk
tags, in addition to the sportsmen’s allocation, and will be
allotted up to 10 percent of the state’s bear harvest.

In addition to tribal limits, tribal members also are state
residents and eligible for the same number of resident licenses as
sportsmen.

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