1991 – Ojibwe Treaty Rights Case Ends

On this day, the 17-year legal battle between Ojibwe Indians and the State of Wisconsin over 19th-century treaties involving rights to hunt, fish, and gather timber was put to rest. Dating from 1974, the suit originated after two Ojibwe were cited for spearfishing in off-reservation waters, and led to numerous racially-charged confrontations when subsequent court decisions validated Ojibwe spearfishing rights. The court rulings split resources evenly between the Ojibwe and non-Indians, and rejected Ojibwe claims for money to compensate them for years of denial of their treaty rights. The chairmen of six Lake Superior Ojibwe bands explained the decision not to appeal as "a gesture of peace and friendship toward the people of Wisconsin", while Wisconsin Attorney General James Doyle cited the risk of jeopardizing the state’s "many significant victories" in the battle if the state were to press forward. The history of treaty negotiations in Wisconsin, including the texts of all treaties and contemporary accounts by both Indian and white participants, are on the page of Turning Points in Wisconsin History.[Source: 5/20/1991, p.1]