A federal appeals court has ruled that fishermen in Alaska’s only Native reserve should not need state permits to fish in waters they’ve traditionally relied on, even outside reservation boundaries.
As KRBD’s Eric Stone reports, the decision is a significant victory in Metlakatla’s decades-long fight for fishing rights.
The Ninth Circuit’s 28-page opinion is broad and unambiguous: the 1891 law that created Metlakatla’s reservation gives tribal members the right to fish in much of southern Southeast Alaska, even outside the Annette Island Reserve’s boundaries.
Metlakatla Mayor Albert Smith called the decision “a very well-reasoned and strongly worded opinion.”
“We’re still going over it, but we’re excited and grateful that the Ninth Circuit confirmed our fishing rights,”
The ancestors of Metlakatla’s Tsimshian people relocated from their former home in British Columbia in the late 19th century at the invitation of the U.S. government.
In 1891, Congress passed a 101-word statute creating the Annette Islands Reserve “for the use of the Metlakahtla Indians.”
That law doesn’t specifically mention fishing rights, but the tribe argued in its 2020 lawsuit against the state of Alaska that Congress intended the Annette Islands to be a permanent, self-sustaining home for the tribe — and that wasn’t possible without the ability to fish outside the reservation’s marine boundaries.
A federal district court judge sided with the state of Alaska and dismissed the case last year, but the Ninth Circuit disagreed, as Metlakatla’s attorney Christopher Lundberg explains.
“The key question that the Ninth Circuit resolved in Metlakatla’s favor was whether Congress in 1891 granted, when they established the reservation, also granted the community the right to fish on a non-exclusive basis in waters outside the reservation,”
The appeals court sent the case back to district court for further consideration.
Alaska Department of Law spokesperson Patty Sullivan called the decision “perplexing and disappointing” in a written statement and said the state is evaluating whether to appeal.
With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there are questions about a renewed relationship between the crown and Indigenous people in Canada.
As Dan Karpenchuk reports, the head of Canada’s largest First Nations group says the crown needs to apologize to Indigenous peoples.
RoseAnne Archibald is the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. She says when she met King Charles in May before he became king, she felt he was honest about wanting to be part of the solutions to problems plaguing Canada’s Indigenous people. But Archibald says there must be more.
“There needs to be an apology by the crown for the failures. And particularly for the destructiveness of colonization on First Nations people. And the role of the Anglican church and the crown as the head of that church in many of those institutions of assimilation and genocide.”
Many First Nations people offered their condolences over the death of the Queen, many also spoke of the complicated history with the British crown.
The crown began entering into treaties with Canada’s Native people in 1701.
There are now eleven treaties in Canada.
Some Native historians says Britain had a sense of superiority and felt it had a right to come in to Canada and civilize everyone else.
They says that colonial policies like the residential schools are still having a harmful impact today.
One of the nearly 100 calls to action from Canada’s truth and reconciliation commission was for the crown to issue a royal proclamation. That call has not yet been addressed.
The Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States is holding a legislative hearing Wednesday on a number of tribal land bills.
Tribal leaders from California, Washington, and Kansas are expected to testify.
Lawmakers will also consider amending the Indian Law Enforcement Reform Act to advance public safety in tribal communities.
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