A federal judge threw out indictments Monday against four Minnesota tribal members accused of poaching walleye and other fish on the Leech Lake Indian reservation and selling them illegally.
The Star Tribune reports U.S. District Judge John Tunheim said Michael Brown, Jerry Reyes and Marc Lyons, all members of the Leech Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, and Frederick Tibbetts, a member of the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians, are protected under a 176-year-old treaty with the Chippewa.
"The 1837 Treaty protects defendants’ right to fish on the reservation and Congress has not specifically abrogated that right,” Tunheim said.
The four were among 10 indicted on federal charges of transporting, selling and purchasing fish taken in violation of the Lacey Act after a three-year investigation by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The investigation, called "Operation Squarehook," uncovered the state's largest case of illegal fish commercialization in two decades.
State charges, most of them misdemeanors, were brought against more than 20 nontribal residents in six northern Minnesota counties.