Indians with Allies on the Warpath

Washington State Indians, in their running battle with state agencies, have a well-publicized champion in Marlon Brando, the actor. Brando and a San Francisco clergyman were arrested by a representative on the State Game Department yesterday after they netted fish in the Puyallup River as a demonstration of support for Indian fishing demands. Some Washington sports fishermen, however, wonder if Brando’s attitude would be the same if that Hollywood resident depended upon finding fish in Washington rivers for his principal recreation. The sports fishermen point out that the Puyallup River would have virtually no fish if the fees they pay had not made it possible for the Game Department to stock the river. Further, the sportsmen say that to allow exceptions to state laws against the use of gill nets in off-reservation rivers could lead to loss of fishing opportunities for everyone, including Indians. The Indians are not impressed by such arguments. They point out that there were plenty of fish in all the rivers before the white man came. Not only Indian fishing rights but other grievance issues such as unemployment and state legal powers in Indian reservations were the focus of attention at today’s Indian demonstration at Olympia. There are no easy answers to the problems that arise when ancient treaty rights clash with laws arising out of today’s vastly changed conditions. There can be no question but that many present-day Washington State Indians live in depressed circumstances. They need sympathy and help. There is a question, however, as to what extent pre-Civil War treaties and the rights or wrongs of that long-ago era should be applicable today.

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