Larry Levanthal: The Fruits of Treaty Rights

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Produced by Nick Vander Puy
Reserve, Wisconsin (IndianCountryTV)

Back in 1974, Attorney Larry Levanthal, teaching at St. Scholastica College in Duluth, instructed two Lac Courte Oreilles tribal members Fred and Mike Tribble about unresolved treaty rights claims in the ceded territories of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

It was illegal for tribal members to spear fish or hunt deer off the reservation except within narrow State statutes. Tribal members were being cited into state courts for trying to feed their families.

After the class, the Tribble brothers dragged their spear fishing shack off the reservation onto State waters, started fishing, and were arrested by Wisconsin game wardens.

The Tribbles' showed the wardens the 1837 Treaty between the Chippewa and the United States which guaranteed the tribes'  right to hunt, fish, and gather in the ceded territory. But the wardens were unmoved.  A Sawyer County judge upheld the arrest.

On appeal Federal judge Doyle sided with the State. But the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in 1984  and eventually treaty rights were upheld by the US Supreme Court in 1999 in  Mille Lacs v. Minnesota.

Larry Levanthal discusses the importance of treaty rights for tribal sovereignty and how treaty rights might be used to challenge coal fired, electricity plants and other polluting industries.

"No longer can the State rule from on high. They must consider the Tribes."

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