Karen Ferguson


The ongoing Indian fishing rights debate in northern Michigan is intensifying as a 1985 court ordered consent agreement nears its year 2000 expiration date. Many of the local citizenry are concerned that the debate may turn violent as it did in the 1970s. In the 1970s there was fierce competition between Indians and non-Indians over a fish resource that was becoming depleted at an alarming rate. While pollution of the Great Lakes and the presence of non-native parasites were more likely the cause of the depleted stocks, the sport fishermen blamed Indian gill netting for the problem. In recent years, Indians have continually pressed for expanded gill net fishing grounds and for a higher share of the fish harvest. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) wants to be able to manage and protect the state's natural resources for the benefit of all the people in the state. Sport fishermen claim that the Indians will destroy the sport fishery. The Indians are offended by the sport fishermen's assertions that Indians are responsible for the decimation of the fish resource and by the sport fisherman's lack of respect for their fishing rights which have been guaranteed to them by the treaties and affirmed by numerous court decisions.