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Fond du Lac Band plans to extend walleye spearing into northeastern MN

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The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa says members of the tribe will be spearing walleye on northeastern Minnesota lakes this spring.

In recent years the band has been spearing fish in Mille Lacs and other central Minnesota lakes. But this will be the first year in modern times that members have exercised their treaty rights on northern lakes, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

In an announcement on its website the band says it will work with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to determine which lakes will be open to spearfishing and set a quota for how many fish will be harvested.

The band's secretary-treasurer, Ferdinand Martineau, Jr., tells the Associated Press 70 to 80 band members have expressed an interest in spearing on northern lakes this year under the terms of an 1854 treaty. That's a different document than the 1837 treaty that allows spearing and netting on Mille Lacs.

A News Tribune map shows the areas covered be each treaty.

In recent years the number of walleye in Mille Lacs Lake has plummeted, prompting tribes and the DNR to dramatically reduce the number of fish anglers are permitted to take. Ferdinand tells the AP that helped fuel band members' interest in spearing northern lakes, which are also closer to the Fond du Lac reservation near Cloquet.

The band says in its announcement that its biologists will be cautious in setting regulations for spearing in the northeast. Ferdinand tells the News Tribune spearing will likely occur on two lakes per night and they will be relatively small lakes.

Federal court rulings in the 1980s affirmed tribal rights to fish and hunt under the terms of 19th Century treaties. When Ojibwe bands in northern Wisconsin exercised their treaty rights to spear and net fish they were met by protesters, some of whom turned violent. The Milwaukee Public Museum has a page recounting those incidents.

In 1988 three Minnesota Ojibwe bands, including Fond du Lac, reached an agreement with the DNR under which the bands received payments from the state in return for limiting the use of their treaty rights. The News Tribune reports the Fond du Lac Band pulled out of the agreement the following year but the Grand Portage and Bois Forte bands still abide by the deal, which is administered by the 1854 Treaty Organization.

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