On March 28, 1836, in Washington D.C., a few dozen Michigan Anishinaabe Ogemuk signed a treaty with the United States, represented by Henry Schoolcraft.
The treaty continues to serve as the original formal acknowledgment of the sovereignty of the Indian tribes represented there, many but not all of which are currently federally recognized.
In exchange for 1/3 of the state (eastern end of upper peninsula and northwestern lower peninsula), the tribes were entitled to hunt and fish as long as they remained.
But much later, in the 1960s, the state of Michigan started heavily regulating commercial fishermen, including tribes, limiting where and how they fished.
John Bailey was a tribal leader at the time and says the regulations hurt the tribes.
Inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the south, tribes began using non-violent civil disobedience to protest the regulations. They ignored state fishing restrictions and said to the authorities, come arrest me.
According to John Bailey, a lot of whites didn’t react well.
One of the groups actually took pictures of Indian fisherman and flooded the state with wanted posters: Spear an Indian, Save a Trout. We had guns pulled on us. We had women verbally and physically assaulted.
White commercial and sports fisherman thought traditional nets used by the tribes would lead to overfishing, destroying the fishing economy.
The fight came to a head in 1979, when the tribes went to court. They pulled out that treaty from 1836. And because of that they won. The courts said: These tribes, they own a part of that lake and the water and the fish in it, too. That’s why tribal fisherman can still fish today.
Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA) gathers all 1836 Treaty fishing tribes under it’s mantle, including:
- Bay Mills Indian Community
- Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
- Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
- Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
- Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indi
Emily Bingham, “How an 800-mile canoe trip starting at an Up North beach became a turning point in Michigan history“, MLive,January 15, 2018.
Treaty of Washington, 1836 wikipedia entry
Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority (CORA)
Turtle Talk, March 28, 2011.