Changes in the Law, Changes in Practice
Introduction: The following are examples of laws and practices that helped limit Native Americans access to their “usual and accustomed grounds and stations.”
- The controversy began when a settler named Frank Taylor fenced in his land along the Columbia River in order to protect his crops.
- Several years ago white men began to encroach on our ground. We were willing to have them share with us the right to fish but not satisfied with equal rights they have yearly made additional obstructions to prevent our catching fish, by setting traps, and placing piling around the grounds. They have driven us from our old camping ground on the beach and have so treated us that we feel we must now appeal to you for assistance.
- Restrictions were set on when to fish.
- Restrictions were set on where to fish.
- Licenses were required for those engaged in fishing.
- As early as 1889 the state government passed laws that closed rivers to fishing, allowing Indians to catch only what was needed for their subsistence.
- In 1907 all rivers in the Puget Sound were closed to net fishing.
- The state tax Indians’ fishing gear like it did non-Indian citizens of the state.
- Problems arose for Yakima fishermen who found access to their “usual and accustomed” fishing grounds blocked, this time by a “fish wheel” owned by a man named Winans.
- On the Green River the Muckleshoots were forbidden from using their accustomed net methods during spawning season off reservation.
- A Muckleshoot was arrested for using a spear in violation of state law.
- The state passed a law which limited Indians to fishing within five miles of their reservation.
- This fear was a result of state officials removing their nets from the river on a site they claimed to be reservation land. James Nimrod, a Nisqually, told a federal investigator that the sate would not even let him fish on creeks running through the reservation.
- As a result of their well organized efforts, the Washington legislature passed a law in 1925 that declared steelhead a “game fish” once it entered fresh water streams and rivers. Up to this time both Indians and non-Indians had considered steelhead a “salmon”. With this new legal designation for steelhead the new state Game Department began to pass new regulations to protect the steelhead for the recreational fisherman. Thus, steelhead could not be taken by net except by Indians on the reservation.
- The state law made the sale of steelhead (during a closed season) anywhere in the state a crime.
- Two years later… the state extended this net fishing ban to reservation waters as well.
- Beginning in 1891 the state built hatcheries to fight the decrease in fish runs. In the case of the steelhead much of the funding for these hatcheries came from the revenues obtained from sport fishing licenses. (This latter development increased the state’s desire to force Indians to obtain licenses). If hatcheries were located upstream from a reservation, the state of Washington believed it had a right to regulate fishing on the reservation as a conservation measure.
- At the Cascades of the Columbia the houses used for shelter and fish drying by Indians… were torn down by whites.