John Lufkins and Philip Parrish went fishing yesterday morning at the East end of Lake Superior.
No available shotlist
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: John Lufkins and Philip Parrish went fishing yesterday morning at the East end of Lake Superior. They need no license, use nets on whatever fish whatever fish they want, and keep all they catch. They have right because they are Chippewa Indians. The state of Michigan granted the Indians unlimited fishing rights in an 1854 Treaty, and this spring the Michigan Supreme Court said the Treaty means just what it says...unlimited fishing rights. So the Chippewas have become commercial fishermen, with no white competition, and their nets have angered Michigan's sports fishermen.
"They think we're here catching all their fish, the lake trout if they can't come out here and catch eight or nine or ten fish they think the lake is completely depleted. This is not true. There are millions of fish out here."
But there were only seven of them in the nets. One net was slashed by a knife and useless. Lufkins has lost sixteen others in the past month, and blames sports fishermen. The sportsmen, restricted to fishing rods, think the Indians are wiping out the lake trough with sophisticated fishing methods. They resent the treaty, and the nets. But they all refused to talk about it, saying the Indians might get them, for voicing their resentment.
"The idea is really repulsive and repugnant to them, to see there fine sports fish being netted out of there in such a manner for commercial purposes. There's no question there's been some deliberate damage to nets as retaliation. Of course that doesn't make the Indians happy, and I can't blame them. There are Indians that are carrying rifles, no we haven't had any reports of violence, but the threat is always there.
The threat was voiced at a meeting of the Chippewa fishermen at their Bay Mills Reservation. They know other interests in trying to get their fishing rights restricted, and they believe nobody cares that sportsmen are cutting up their nets.
"Its not so damn much just getting the nets out every now and then, it's an idea that the son of a gun comes down there and robs your nets and steals the fish, now this is a damn thief, that ain't no sportsman, he's thief."
The Indians are bitterly divided over how to prevent poaching and net cutting, and over how to block the legal assault on their rights. Most of them are small operators who fish part time. John Lufkins is an electronics technician, and Philip Parrish teaches welding in a vocational school. But the fishing money helps.
"The fishing rights have already made a difference at the Bay Mills Indian Reservation. For the fist time in memory, there's cash money flowing through the community grocery story, and people who until very recently would not admit having Indian blood at all, are now coming around claiming their share of the tribal fishing rights. All of a sudden there are advantages in being a Chippewa.