Tribal Treaty Rights

Some Native Nations have reserved rights to harvest certain plants and animals on territory ceded to the United States through treaty. As signatory to these treaties, the federal government is required to uphold treaty rights and to protect the animals, plants, and ecosystems on which those rights are based.

In Wisconsin, Ojibwe (or Chippewa) Tribes hold treaty-reserved rights to hunt, fish, and gather on ceded lands and waters in order to meet subsistence, economic, cultural, medicinal, and spiritual needs. Several key court decisions have upheld the existence and exercise of treaty–reserved rights in Wisconsin.

Important Court Decisions

  • The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s 1972 Gurnoe Decision ruled in favor of Bad River and Red Cliff tribal fishing rights in Lake Superior.

  • In 1983, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the treaty–reserved rights of Ojibwe bands in Wisconsin in a ruling known as the Voigt Decision.

  • In 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the 1837 treaty rights of Ojibwe Tribes in what is known as the Mille Lacs Decision.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission

The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) is a commission that represents eleven Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan who have reserved hunting, fishing and gathering rights in treaties with the U.S. government. GLIFWC provides services and information to support the exercise of treaty rights and protect the natural resources and habitat in the treaty ceded territories.

Learn more here.