What game and fish regulations are enforced on American Indian reservations?
Members of a band may hunt and fish on any reservation under regulations provided by the band or tribe that have authority over the reservation. This applies to both trust and nontrust land within the boundaries of the reservation.(65)
State jurisdiction on hunting and fishing laws over nonmembers is maintained for all but one reservation area of the state. The diminished original Red Lake Reservation that contains only trust land within its boundaries is considered a closed reservation and nonmembers are not subject to state regulation within its boundaries. Other areas of the Red Lake Reservation on restored ceded lands, lands within the Northwest Angle and all other reservations of the state are considered "open" reservations. The reservation areas are considered "open" because the reservation trust lands are interspersed with nontrust lands. On "open" reservations nonmembers are subject to state jurisdiction. The question of state jurisdiction over nonmembers was litigated in federal court for both Leech Lake and White Earth Reservations. State jurisdiction was affirmed in both cases. (66)
Are American Indians subject to federal fish and wildlife laws?
Yes. For migratory bird hunting, American Indian reservations and ceded lands are treated like states in establishing seasons and limits. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service publishes specific seasons and limits for migratory birds on certain American Indian reservations and ceded lands.
Are American Indians subject to state fish and game laws?
If a Band member is fishing or hunting on the band's reservation or under treaty-recognized rights of use available to the Band, the member is not subject to the state's fish and wildlife laws but is subject to Band fish and wildlife laws. A Band member is only subject to state regulation when fish and wildlife are taken on land that is:
1. outside of the member's reservation; and
2. in an area that is not subject to treaty recognized rights of use for the Band member.
What treaties covering Minnesota have included treaty-recognized rights of use?
Both the 1837 and the 1854 treaties with the Chippewa included language on treaty-recognized rights of use. The 1837 treaty area covers all or part of 11 counties in east-central Minnesota; the 1854 treaty area covers the northeastern part of the Minnesota commonly referred to as the arrowhead.
The rights of use under the 1837 Treaty are subject to a federal court case that will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that the treaty-recognized rights of use under the 1837 treaty continue to exist. (67) While the case is under appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the signatory bands are able to exercise treaty-recognized rights of use in the 1837 Treaty Area.
In 1988 the Minnesota Legislature approved an agreement with the bands in the 1854 Treaty Area.(68) The agreement was originally signed by the three signatory bands - Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, and Bois Forte. After further consideration, the Fond du Lac Band withdrew from the agreement. The agreement provides that the State of Minnesota makes payments to the bands based on a formula that is tied to the revenue from hunting and fishing license sales. In exchange for the payments, the bands are obligated to restrict their harvest of fish, game, and wild rice according to the agreement.
Does Minnesota have other agreements with any American Indian Bands over rights of use?
Yes. In 1972 the Leech Lake Band was successful in asserting their right to hunt, fish, and gather wild rice free of state regulation on the Leech Lake Reservation.(69) While the case was under appeal, the state and the Leech Lake Band signed an agreement providing for limitations on the Band's right to hunt, fish, and gather in exchange for compensation from the state. The agreement was ratified by the Legislature in 1973.(70) The original agreement called for the establishment of special Leech Lake licenses, with money from the special licenses going to a special Leech Lake Band Account. Later the agreement was amended to provide, in lieu of the special license, for a payment from the state of five percent of the license revenue collected by the state for fishing, hunting, trapping, and taking bait.
Also, as part of the Mille Lacs case, the state, the Mille Lacs Band and other parties involved in the 1837 Treaty lawsuit have filed a stipulation agreement with the U.S. District Court to resolve some of the specific issues where the state, the Band, and the other parties could agree (e.g., enforcement, record keeping, and harvest data). That stipulation is subject to the ultimate decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case.
The Legislature has authorized an agreement with the White Earth Band under terms similar to those reached with the Leech Lake Band.(71) To date no agreement has been made with the White Earth Band.