Treaty Rights FAQs



Treaty Rights Reserved


     GLIFWC’s member tribes signed treaties in 1836, 1837, 1842, and 1854 with the United States government. In those treaties they ceded (sold) land in northern Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, but retained the rights to hunt, fish and gather in the ceded territories.

Treaty rights are:

• affirmed by court decisions.

• a usufructuary right.

• a tribal right not an individual right.

• regulated through tribal codes.

Treaty Rights Ignored


Chief Red Cloud


     The treaty rights retained by the tribes were subsequently ignored after the territories of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota assumed statehood and began regulating their natural resources. Those regulations were imposed on tribal members regardless of the reserved rights. Tribal members exercising those rights were often given citations, taken to court, fined and had their equipment confiscated if harvesting fish or game without a state license.




Treaty Rights Affirmed


Dick Gurnoe     In the mid-1900s tribes began to seek legal affirmation of the treaty rights. Several positive court decisions ensued both in the Northwest and in the Great Lakes region that affirmed the treaty rights and ruled for tribal self-regulation.
      The 1972 Gurnoe Decision ruled in favor of the Bad River and Red Cliff tribes’ fishing rights in Lake Superior.
     Mark Slonim In 1983 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled in favor of the Lac Courte Oreilles Band in a ruling now known as the Voigt Decision. That ruling was further supported when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.

     In 1997 a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of appeals upheld a federal district court ruling affirming the 1837 Treaty rights of the Ojibwe. That decision, known as the Mille Lacs Decision, was further upheld by a 1999 US Supreme Court ruling.





A Guide to Understanding Ojibwe Treaty Rights, published by GLIFWC

Chippewa Treaty Rights: The Reserved Rights of Wisconsin's Chippewa Indians in Historical Perspective by Dr. Ronald Satz, 1996.

Plaintiff Brief in support of Preliminary Injunction

Plaintiff Motion for Preliminary Injunction