Powell, Patricia (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review: Wisconsin Indians
Volume 28, Number 2 (March 1982)
Deer, Robert E.; Addis, James T.
Resource management and treaty rights: conflict or cooperation?, pp. 12-14
Resource controversies Many of the Wisconsin Indian reser- vations have large tracts of undeveloped forest land and water frontage. Here, the fish and game habitat is underutilized. Here, the largest walleye and record whitetail find a home. This "best" fishing and hunting is much sought after by the sportsman, but these reservations are not playgrounds for the tourist, nor are they wilderness frontiers awaiting exploita- tion. These reservations are homes of the tribes, representing their identity, their security, and acting as a symbol of their former greatness. Tribalism demands protection of the homeland, and therein lies the reason for conflict: tribes are de- termined to assert and protect their re- servation home against outsiders. This stance leads to controversy, especially when people don't know much about the location and status of the reservations. One of the largest and best known In- dian reservations in Wisconsin is that of the Menominee Tribe, located just north- west of Green Bay. Here, the tribe owns over 230,000 acres of forest land, lake and river frontage, and game habitat, a priceless wilderness heritage. In the southeast corner of the Menominee In- dian reservation lies an artificial lake de- velopment called "Lakes of the Men- ominees." Here, several thousand non- Indians have bought lake lots and are building recreational homes. This project, developed at a time when the tribal lead- ership was trying to expand the tax base, has become controversial. It represents, in the minds of many tribal members, a "selling out" of the Menominees' historic homeland, something the tribe's ancestors fought to preserve. Many questions in the "Lakes of the Menominees" project are posed as state's rights versus tribal rights. Who, for in- stance, has exclusive authority over the navigable waterways in the project-the state or the tribe? The Wisconsin position of exclusive state jurisdiction is countered by the tribe's position of exclusive tribal jurisdiction. Who has boating and fishing license regulatory authority? Does the tribe have authority over tribal members and not over nonmembers? If so, in which court, tribal, state or federal? Do Indian treaty rights supercede state's rights? These are tough questions which will take many years to resolve. In spite of the complexity of these re- source issues, the Menominee tribal chairperson is taking a cooperative posi- tion rather than a conflict-oriented one. The tribe's goal is reacquisition of the lake development project, and the chair- person recently stated: "We would like to live together and get along with the Lakes of the Menominees' people, but we intend to reacquire the lake property o er the long term. We realize we'll have to pay for it. It'll be done legally." Lucille Chapman, Chairperson, Me n- ominee Indian Tribe, Keshena, Wisconsin Robert Gillis, President, Property Ov ers Association, Keshena, Wisconsin The President of the Lakes of the Men- ominees property owner's association is equally cooperative: "We're becoming more of a community every day and are trying to work together in the best inter- ests of all of the people in the commu- nity." A cooperative approach The problem with posing natural re- source questions in a state's rights versus tribal rights dichotomy is that it separates and divides the people by polarizing the views. A design for conflict is built in to the interactive process. The settlement process in resource controversies becomes very difficult. A focus upon common cause or com- mon interest, a search for mutual interest, understanding, and respect, and rational lines of communication can lead to a set- tlement process which ultimately benefits everyone. This approach was used in the case of the Red Cliff Tribe and the Lake Superior fishery. The tribe and the State of Wisconsin (through the Department of Natural Resources) negotiated for a number of years on this matter. The basic problem facing all users of the Lake Su- perior fishery was depleted fish stocks. The United States and Canada, in the early fifties, decided as a matter of na- tional policy to rehabilitate cooperatively the fish stock, especially the lake trout (see Lake Superior : A Case History of the Lake and Its Fisheries, Technical Report No. 19, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Ann Arbor, Michigan). Central to this rehabilitation theme was the concept of regulation; all users would be controlled through various authorities. Unfortunately, Indian tribes were not given adequate consideration in the de- velopment process; their treaty rights were neither acknowledged nor recog- nized as significant. Some tribes, through the protection afforded by their treaty rights, are almost immune from state regulatory efforts (see State v. Gurnoe, 53 Wis. 2d 390 , and U.S. of America, et al., v. State of Michigan, et al., 471 F Supp. 192 (W.D. Mich. 1979). These court decisions have severly limited state regulatory authority and clarified tribal access to the fish re- sources in Lake Superior. This still leaves the question: who has the capability and authority to manage the Lake Superior fish stock? The answer to this tough management question lies in a cooperative approach which blends formerly competitive inter- ests into a shared management authority. Wisconsin Academy Review/March 1982/13
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