1964 – Yellowstone may be Next if Indians Follow Settlers’ Way

When the Indians harp that they should be allowed to fish in their “ancient and accustomed ways,” they are on shaky grounds for argument. The catch in that phrase, incorporated in old treaties, is the virtual impossibility of an Indian complying with the “ancient” requirements. He probably is going to drive to the fishing spot, use some store bought materials in his gear, land a hatchery fish and take it home to a refrigerator. What those five Indians did at Alcatraz the other day could be more difficult for the whites to counter. Alcatraz has been abandoned as a penitentiary. Now the island is just unused federal land. The Indians staked claims on it.

It was an imaginative move. If the idea is taken up on a larger scale, this is what could happen: One day the rangers at Yellowstone meet a long train of automobiles moving into the national park, with Indian scouts riding out ahead on motorcycles. The scouts pick a good meadow, and some of them ride back to the rain to direct the cars to the camping spot. Others scatter to hunt up something for dinner. The rangers are horrified. They descend upon the train, which is now forming a circle in the meadow. “We’re emigrating,” the Indian leaders answer blandly. “We are looking for new land where we can settle. Maybe this is it.”

“Here?” the rangers exclaim.

“Don’t you know this is a national park?”

“Yes,” says Chief Herman Jones. “So we figured we might stay. It is public land.”

The rangers sputter. “Of course it is public land! That is why you can’t settle on it.”

“Oh?” Chief Jones says, raising his eyebrows. “We thought it was well established in American history that settlers kept moving onto land that was not privately owned.”

“But it is owned by the federal government.”

The Indians nod. “We know. That means it is owned by everybody, just as our people in general owned the land. We didn’t have private lots, either.”

Two more park rangers arrive in a patrol car, greatly agitated. “Guess what?” they cry. “Two Indians killed a buffalo and another one over that away is bringing in an elk he shot! When we tried to arrest them, they threatened to shoot us.”

“Can you explain that?” the head ranger demands angrily.

“Sure,” Chief Jones replies. “We need meat for dinner.”

“Animals in national parks. . .” the ranger begins, but he is interrupted by several Indians at once.

“Where did your wagon trains get fresh meat? It was off of public land, and they didn’t buy the buffalo from us or ask permission to shoot them.”

“This is different,” the ranger protest.

“How?” Chief Hones says.

“How!” the ranger replies automatically, raising his hand. Recovering, he hastily lowers it. “I mean, nothing like this has happened, and . . . hey, stop those fellows from chopping trees! It is prohibited. I can show you in the regulations that is prohibited.”

“Need firewood,” explains Chief Jones, who is on leave from his law practice to lead the emigrant train. “Well, no, we don’t need wood, we have gasoline stoves for cooking but a campfire is nice.” A tree crashes to the ground. “Just like the old days,” Chief Jones remarks watching the choppers. “Just like the settlers did when they moved onto the shores of Puget Sound and started felling trees.” The rangers are so flabbergasted, they withdraw for a conference.

Presently they declare, “We are going to telephone the secretary of the interior. We may even call President Johnson.”

“Good,” Chief Jones says, “Tell the Great White Father that if his people are too disturbed about losing this land and the game on it, we will sets aside a reservation for them.”

Claims Indians in the Right

More about Indians’ rights and treaties. The Indians say the white man’s word and their treaties are not worth the paper they are written on. All the white man wants to do is to take everything away from the Indians and give them nothing but abuse in return. The white man promised the Indians that they would give them reservations to live on and let them fish and hunt any place they wanted to, and didn’t tell them that they couldn’t sell their game or fish or tell them what they had to do with their game or fish after they caught them. They took almost all of the Indians’ land just to give them the fight to fish and hunt any time of the year or any place that they wanted to. The Indians signed the treaty expecting to be able to fish and hunt, but the white man’s sheriffs came and arrested them and take their boats and nets away from them and throw them in jail. The cops like to arrest Indians because they can’t fight back because the white man took away almost everything that the Indians had. If the cops want to do something why don’t they chase that Russian fleet off our coast? They catch more fish in one day than the Indians catch in a lifetime. But the cops don’t want to do anything to anybody that can fight back. Just Indians, that is the kind of cops we have. The white man came out West and shot the Indians’ buffalo and their cattle just for sport, and now they arrest the poor defenseless Indians for trying to catch a few fish to get a life money to use. All the fish that the little catch don’t amount to nothing. That is how good the white man’s treaty is. No wonder the Indians say that the white man is crooked and two faced. That is who the people in Asia don’t believe the United States because they know how they treated the Indians here at home. They say that they double crossed their own Indians here at home so they think that they will double cross every body else.

Indian Fishing Controversy Deepens

It is discouraging to note Washington’s game and fisheries departments see little chance of winning their war against several Indian groups who insist ancient tribal treaties give them the right to gillnet steelhead and salmon out of existence in several rivers famed for such resources. This week oral arguments were heard by the State Supreme Court on appeals of three Indian tribes who claim ancestral fishing rights on Western Washington rivers. They claim they can fish when and where they please, in defiance of state fishing regulations. Lower courts have so far upheld the state departments, which are now releasing figures showing that in four years steelhead and salmon runs on at least two rivers, the Puyallup and the Nisqually, have dwindled to almost nothing. This is because several small groups of Indians have used filament nylon nets completely across river mouths. Upstream escarpment, by impossible. The Indians sell the fish commercially in Oregon, such sales being prohibited in Washington. A spokesman for the state game department, speaking in Centralia this week, voiced the opinion that while the state court will refuse the Indians’ appeals, the issue will be reversed in federal courts, where it is headed. And, he said, there isn’t much chance of any public alarm outside of the Northwest. The nation has in recent years had a soft spot in its hearts, or head, for minority groups with a cause – and generally regardless of any sensible facts involved. Recently the same Indian fishing trouble occurred on the Columbia River. The state of Oregon found in its efforts to control the red renegades, who had threatened gunplay, that Uncle Sam is rushing to their defense. This supports the pessimism of Washington officials. There appears no easy or ready solution to the situation, but several things are taking shape:

  1. Indian groups responsible for commercially exterminating the steelhead and salmon runs are minorities, and small ones. Their own tribes oppose their acts. Generally, the public has not recognized this, but if eventually will.
  2. The state departments have already said they cannot protect the fisheries resources and have no choice but to quit hatchery operations on the streams. This will mean complete depletion of the runs if the Indians continue their netting operations. And the Indians can extend the same sort of treatment to almost all of the state’s salmon and steelhead steams.
  3. The thousand of buyers of Washington fishing licenses are going to belatedly wake up to the sad news of steelhead and salmon depletion. And also to the fact it was their license money that had kept the streams stocked, and that if the Indian issue is ever settled it will be their money that will have to buy the hatcheries back to work.

A Deeper Problem

December 26, 1854, 62 Indians, 19 white witnesses and Governor Stevens signed the She-van-name or Medicine Creek Treaty. Two of the tribes involved were the Puyallups and the Nisquallys. By terms of the treaty the Indians ceded the title to their lands, except certain parts to be held as reservations. The rights of the Indians to hunt and fish at the usual places were protected and the government paid the tribes $32,500 compensation for their land. Controversy over what is means for the Indians to “hunt and fish at the usual places” has landed several Indians in jail and has aroused the sympathy of civil rights leaders (Dick Gregory as of late) and the ire of conservationists. Just what does the treaty mean? To the Indians, it means they can fish in the streams wherever their ancestors did. To the civil authorities, conservationists, and sports fishermen, it means they can fish within the reservation. The Indians’ fishing methods are anathema to the sportsman anglers. Runabouts with outboard motors race past wading steelheaders in the Puyallup River. Gill nets stretched nearly across the river trap steelhead and salmon swimming upstream, fish that the sportsmen use rods and reels and shiny lures to catch. The Indians contend that they have to catch efficiently or they won’t get enough to eat. Conservationists say they the Indians’ fighting methods are wasteful and that they do not allow enough to go upstream to spawn and replenish the supply. Sportsmen cringe and accuse the Indians of taking an unfair advantage of the noble steelhead. The Washington State Supreme Court, in an unprecedented action, has sided with conservationists and requires the Indians to abide by the white man’s rules when fishing off the reservation. If the Medicine Creek Treaty implies, as the Indians say it does, that any manner of fishing in any of the old fishing grounds be permitted, should the red men be allowed to fish unrestricted? Or should they stick to the spirit of the treaty, as some have demanded, and fish wherever they wish as long as they fish as they did in 1854, with spears? Whichever interpretation is correct is a moot point. The current controversy has much deeper roots than the conservation of fish. America’s half million Indians are faced with numerous problems are basic: Many lack education and skills enough to earn a decent living. The Puyallups and Nisquallys must turn to fishing for they perhaps know nothing else. Conservation has for centuries been part of the Indians’ way of life. There were millions of buffalo before the white man came; there always were plenty of fish in the rivers and streams. There aren’t anymore. First, the Indians must carry their treaty rights fight to the Supreme Court. This would clear up their legal status. But this is just the first step on the road to prosperity. Positive and constructive action on the Indians’ part would do more to improve his lot than demonstrating and treaty-waving. They must widen their economic base and become financially independent if they are to share in the wealth of the nation. This cannot be accomplished without cooperation with the white man. If the Indians can achieve economic independence and their reliance on fishing for a living is eliminated, everyone will know who to blame if the steelhead runs keep getting smaller and smaller. It won’t be the Indian.

1964 – Fish Without a License

To the Editor: That seems to be the edict of the Pierce County prosecutor. Does this same amnesty apply to the local citizenry or only to out-of-state celebrities? Mr. Brando openly and brazenly broke the laws of the state by fishing and taking game fish with a net, and probably did not have a valid fishing license or a punch card. The fish and game laws require a card be punched immediately upon landing a catch. Yet, our prosecutor refuses to file charges because Mr. Brando was doing this unlawful act as part of a movement. If, as has been said, Mr. Brando is seeking publicity, let him pay for it. He actually had no part in the demonstration because he is not of Indian blood. Has our county prosecutor fulfilled his sworn duty to uphold the laws of the state? Would he, Mr. McCutcheon, look the other way if one of us local yokels said "I am joining a movement to protect the Indians. I am going to net me some steelhead?"

1964 – On “Pretty Thick”…

To the Editor: There are by now a great number of people who have made comments on the Indians’ rights to fish with gillnets in the rivers of our something that was very obvious in the TNT’s excellent coverage. I think that the Indians and Marlon Brando were putting it on pretty think. The first thing was the 20-foot long dugout powered by paddlers. I have driven to work many mornings along the Puyallup River and I have yet to see an Indian fishing from a dugout. But I have seen them fishing from 12-to 14-foot boats, powered by about a 10-horse, out-board engine. The engine alone enable the fisherman to keep his net virtually from one bank to the other. If two men can drift 200 yards in a dugout and catch two fish, what can two men in a 12-foot boat with a powerful outboard do?

1964 – Ache in the Tummy

Marlon Brando has left our state, having presumably suffered a slight sea-sickness padding about at the head of tidewater in the Quillayute River. He was much better in "Mutiny on the Bounty." Many Washington residents have a pain in the tummy, too. They wonder how it is that a Hollywood actor can come into Washington and get away with the sort of fracturing of game laws that no Washingtonian could accomplish. And how the swashbuckling hero can incite the Indian people to disregard the orders of the courts. With the Indian folk we have small quarrel. Surely their white brothers have pressed them unduly through Indians is a quarrel with method. Fish can be taken from the Puyallup, the Nisqually, the Quillayute without threatening the whole fish run. Brando, we take it, was only partly successful in his publicity campaign. He did call attention to the real problem of the Indians. But he failed to score the big "feat" he would have scored if he could have tripped local officials into jailing him. Maybe they’ll be running "Mutiny on the Bounty" on TV again soon. If so, we’ll cast a sharp eye on Brando, to see how he’s taking the rolls of a ship on a wrathful sea. Perhaps we can spot a slight queasiness about his braggadocio demeanor.

1964 – Indian Dignity

To the Editor: Regarding dignity of the American Indian. Whatever else the Indian may seem to lack-it is not dignity-even the smallest child has this inner quality. Mr. Tanner made a faux pass when he mentioned this. His own people have many fine qualities, many are dignified but too many have cringed and crawled while others became arrogant and overbearing. They were not stoics. Indians have the stoicism of their antecedents. Of the two the Afro-American is more adaptable, or seems so on the surface. Both he and his white brother are usurpers whether by accident or design. While decrying color-many use it or try to as a common bond. Neither black nor white are colors. White is lack of color-black is density beyond color. There is as much relation between black and Indian as white and Indian. The Indian is the middle man. Mr. Tanner probably meant no offense, but to the Indian, who seem to be in a less prominent and more precarious position than the Afro-American at the moment, it is a highly sensitive point. It was the worst possible tactic to use if strategy has placed the Indian on the defensive and as inferior in dignity to black and white. He has, in fact, more than either.

1964 – Illegal Fishing

To the Editor: I’m writing you in regard to an article in the paper Monday regarding the Indian “Fish-in” on Puyallup River. As a taxpayer of the state of Washington, I am charged a nominal fee each year for the privilege of fishing the lakes and rivers of the state. With this privilege are certain restrictions as to the type of lure which can be used and also the bait. If I am found to be in violation by a game warden then I an subject to a fine or imprisonment or both. Now, my question is this: If Marlon Brando who is not a citizen of this state can net fish on the Puyallup River, then why do we need a license to fish, and why can’t we also use a net? Mr. McCutcheon says and I quote your article; “We don’t plan to file any formal charges against these men,” Canon Yaryan and Brando are not fishermen by trade. Of all the stupid statements I have heard this takes the cake. I say they broke the law on at least three counts.

  1. Fishing without a license.
  2. Illegal taking of fish by net (It’s illegal for me to do so).
  3. Fishing when a restraining order was in effect.

There are probably many other counts by I am no lawyer. This things smell like a case we had here no so long ago when an attorney would have gotten off the hook if public opinion hadn’t gotten aroused. I would like to remind Mr. McCutcheon that as an elected official he can be assured of losing one vote. He is supposed to uphold the law, not make up phony interpretations to suit his own personal ideas.


Editor the Daily Olympian: There are two basic facts of the Indian controversy.

  1. A Treaty was signed giving the Indians fishing rights in the usual and accustomed places.
  2. The white man is now living off the Indians’ homeland while continuing to break the Indian Treaties.

Instead of using subtle and devious means trying to weasel out of the treaties by clouding the issue and distorting the facts, we should rectify our injustices by honoring these promises, improving the Indians treatment, and allowing the Indians to decide what is best for themselves. The greatest majority of American Indians are reasonable people who have been forced to live under brutal and vicious conditions imposed upon them by unscrupulous white men. If there are any new problems to be met the Treaty may be mutually renegotiate but never under threats of force. We cannot hide the facts by being hypocritical and finding alibis for our broken treaties and inhumane treatment of our plundered American Indian. The fact remains that we are living on Indian lands that were seized by treachery, force and murder. We are living under a cloud of broken vows. We are continuing to exploit, starve, and jail the Indians. It is happening now. . . in the twentieth century. It seems there is a very thin line of demarcation between the white savage of 200 years ago and the white savage of today. I am beginning to wonder if the rest of the citizens are condoning this persecution of the Indians since very few are speaking out against it. Washington is not a Gestapo State . . . yet, although, I am beginning to have doubts when people show such violent resentment against non-Indians or out-of-staters who are trying to defend the Indians against shameful injustices. * * *I have always been loyal to the United States, but stand against greedy or corrupt men who twist the facts and pass discriminatory laws to exploit the minority for selfish purposes Tomorrow, these same greedy men will change and distort the laws to exploit and enslave the majority. None of us can escape the guilt for the present conditions. The honorable solution is to immediately release the Indians from jail pay them damages for their unnecessary suffering and arrest, and abide by the Indian Treaties.