Skip to main content

The more things change, the adage goes, the more they stay the same.

While fisheries management in Washington State has undergone a political sea-change in the decades following the 1974 Boldt decision, one thing appears to have stayed the same – mobilizations against treaty-reserved fishing rights still bring out the worst in some of our fellow citizens.

In the wake of the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) May 1 closure of the salmon-fishing season in several lakes and the lower reaches of most Puget Sound rivers, and a small federally-approved ceremonial and subsistence fishery by treaty tribes, recreational fishing industry groups organized protests. In the process, one group, the Coastal Conservation Association, distorted facts about tribal fishing and flirted with the “equal rights” language of the organized anti-Indian movement. Online responders to press coverage of the conflict and protests unleashed a torrent of bigotry directed at tribes, ranging from anti-Indian stereotypes; to advocating tribal termination and treaty abrogation; to calls for out-and-out violence against tribal members and illegal interference with treaty-protected fishing rights.

The conflict became visible on May 4 when some 20 people gathered to protest a 2-day fishery by the Swinomish Tribe on the Skagit River, a scene one reporter described as “reminiscent of an early period in fishery management when bitter protests were sparked by the landmark 1974 Boldt court decision.”[1]

After decades of illegal suppression of tribal fishing rights by Washington State, in U.S. v. Washington Judge George Boldt ruled that treaties signed between Indian Nations and the United States in the 1850s had reserved to tribes one-half of the harvestable fish migrating through their “usual and accustomed” fishing places. The treaties, Boldt ruled, also reserved the right of tribes to co-manage fisheries with the state. The major elements of the decision were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1979, stating that “A treaty, including one between the United States and an Indian tribe, is essentially a contract between two sovereign nations.”[2]  Under Article VI of the United States Constitution, treaties signed with tribes are the “supreme Law of the Land.”

Anti-tribal protests followed a breakdown in negotiations in the North of Falcon (NOF) process, a venue in which tribes and the state annually work out salmon harvest allocations. As the NOF process normally goes, based on projected salmon returns, overall allocations across fisheries are made in line with the Boldt decision’s 50-50 split between tribal and non-tribal fisheries. The latter are divided between commercial and recreational fishers, the state and tribes taking responsibility for enforcing their respective fisheries. As a result of the tribal responsibility for enforcement, for instance, tribal fishing enforcement officers were also on hand to observe the Swinomish tribal fishery.

The stalled talks came in the context of projections for startlingly low levels of returning coho salmon this year. According to WDFW, about 256,000 Puget Sound coho are expected to return this year. This is about one-third of the predicted 2015 run; only 242,000 returned that year. Factors in the decline likely include habitat loss and climate impacts. In the wake of this decline, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission closed the inland coho fishery for its 20 member tribes, save for a small research fishery conducted by tribal biologists and fishing at a few terminal locations where hatchery fish return. NWIFC Chair Lorraine Loomis stated,

 Unfortunately, the political leadership with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife did not provide a fisheries package that met the conservation need of stocks of concern because of low abundance. We have argued on the side of conservation and caution this year, and for the tribes that means closing the fisheries.

Conversely, WDFW advocated a recreational coho season. Recreational fishing industry groups play a significant role in WDFW policy development and have strongly backed a coho fishery despite the projected low returns.[3]

Even with the salmon closures, WDFW notes that recreational fishing opportunities continue to exist. Most Puget Sound area lowland lakes remain open and recreational fishers can take lingcod and Pacific cod, sea-run cutthroat trout and halibut. There will also be an ocean salmon fishery in July.[4]

As negotiations stalled, tribes and the state pursued separate avenues for setting fishing seasons. Because they co-manage 22 stocks of Chinook listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal law requires that both parties obtain permits to fish for non-listed species in those waters. While the North of Falcon process has generally led to a joint application,  the halt in talks led both to pursue separate permits under their own harvest plans – actions allowed under federal law. Tribes, including the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle, received preliminary authorization for small ceremonial and subsistence fisheries through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a common practice. A spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told HeraldNet that under provisions of the ESA, “BIA determined that these early fisheries could proceed without our determination because they are small in magnitude, with limited impacts that would not foreclose our…ability to make adjustments later.” Such actions are allowable under Section 7(d) of the ESA. NOAA continues to review the state’s harvest application.[5]

The Skagit River protest was organized by the Puget Sound Anglers, according to the Seattle Times. The Puget Sound Anglers have joined a coalition of recreational fishing industry groups to oppose the closure. Other coalition partners include the Coastal Conservation Association, Northwest Marine Trade Association, the Charter Boat Association of Puget Sound and the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. These groups issued an April 15 press release assailing tribes for calling on WDFW to “close fisheries targeting wild coho, but rejecting the state’s plan to meets its conservation priority by using proven management techniques such as mark-selecting, or catch-and-release fisheries.” While industry groups promote such techniques as a conservation panacea, the reality is not that simple. A 2014 WDFW study, for instance, found that mortality rates for both marked (hatchery) and non-marked (wild) Chinook salmon were 15% for legal-sized fish and 20% for sublegal-sized fish.[6] Such practices also cause non-lethal harms to fish.  In 2015 state fisheries managers closed the Puget Sound recreational salmon season two months early due to catch-and-release mortality and impacts on endangered Chinook.[7]

In addition to the Skagit River protest, a rally was held May 5 at the NOAA office in Lacey, Washington. This event was promoted by the Washington State chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association, a Houston, Texas-based organization that played a role in shutting down several commercial fisheries in the Gulf Coast. While the CCA’s name emphasizes conservation, the group’s activities center on expanding the portion of fish for recreational fishers as against commercial fishers – for instance, by seeking gill-net bans and lobbying for a greater share of state-managed fisheries.

Boasting assets of more than $16 million in its 2014 IRS 990, the national CCA has not historically made opposing tribal fishing a central goal. This may be changing, at least in Washington State. One troubling sign is that the group has taken to protesting the fishery closure by deploying the “equal rights” language long used by the organized anti-Indian movement. The group’s Lacy event, for instance, was dubbed the “Rally for Fisheries Equality” and the CCA issued a statement that,

Puget Sound treaty tribes have initiated commercial salmon fisheries despite the lack of the required permit under the ESA…[W]e are urging NOAA to stand for transparency, fairness, and equality as it considers the stand along (sic) tribal and state fishing plans for this season. The tribes have also submitted a fishery plan that would far exceed their 50% share of the allowable harvest in many rivers. This has been a common theme in recent years, where the historical allocation of Chinook, for example, has been unfairly weighted toward the tribes, with nearly 70% of the overall impacts going to tribal fisheries.[8]

Also like the anti-Indian movement, the Coastal Conservation Association here distorts the facts about tribal fishing in the context of pushing for a greater share of fish allocated to tribes. First, the fisheries on the Skagit River were ceremonial and subsistence fisheries that received preliminary approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the ESA, a fact made clear in NOAA statements to the press.  And second, the claim that tribal plans “exceed their 50% share…in many rivers,” and “nearly 70% of overall impacts” on Chinook go to tribes is misleading at best. The North of Falcon process has historically used the 50-50 split to balance allocation across all covered fisheries. While a given fishery may be weighted toward one party, this approach has provided flexibility to meet the specific needs of state and tribal fishers in the context of an overall 50-50 division. Finally, the CCA fails to adequately acknowledge the unique nature of tribal sovereignty and treaty rights and their relationship to tribal fishing rights. By distorting facts in this manner, the CCA’s statements can contribute to misunderstandings of tribal rights and bigotry against tribal members.

The protests also come as two online efforts have formed to oppose tribal fishing rights in Western Washington. A Facebook Page titled “Muckleshaft” has been set up to blame the Muckleshoot and other tribes for the closures. This group is currently promoting the fallacious idea that tribal fishers operating under treaty rights and federal approval are poachers. In addition, Stephen Warren of Tumwater, Washington has set up an online petition calling for Congress to change the 50-50 fish allocation in the Boldt decision.[9]

Hal Benton of the Seattle Times reports that, “There is also talk of some sport fishermen taking to the water to fish illegally.” Ron Garner of the Puget Sound Anglers reinforced this view, telling the Times, “You’re probably going to see that…What I’m hearing is – if they fish, we fish.”

In the wake of press coverage of the closures, anti-Indian bigotry reared its ugly head in comments posted in online news forums. Reminiscent of previous mobilizations against tribal members, comments ran the gamut from stereotypes, to advocating an end to tribal rights, to calls for violence against tribal members. Particularly troubling, a number of bigoted statements were made by people whose Facebook page “likes” indicate some level of support for far right paramilitary and racist causes. While the Coastal Conservation Association and Puget Sound Anglers have not expressed the kind of bigotry documented below, neither have they addressed or condemned the vicious nature of this response. By also distorting facts about treaty fishing, pushing for a greater share of tribally-allocated fish, and flirting with the language of the organized anti-Indian movement, the CCA’s actions can, in fact, promote such bigotry.

The excerpts below document the anti-Indian bigotry that appeared following a video of tribal fishers on the Skagit River placed on the Skagit Breaking Community News Facebook Page on May 4. 

Calls for Violence Against Tribal Fishers and Interference With Tribal Fishing Rights

As has occurred far too many times during conflicts over tribal fishing, some non-Indians opposing treaty rights have called for violence against Native people. In a particularly disturbing example, Mike Benoit of Homer, Alaska, and formerly Bainbridge Island, Washington, writes of tribal fishers, “Disgusting. Should be hung by there necks. And left to rot!!”[10]


Mike Benoit of Homer, Alaska: [Facebook]

Mike Benoit of Homer, Alaska: [Facebook]

Mike Benoit of Homer, Alaska: “Disgusting. Should be hung by there (sic) necks. And left to rot!!”


John Thomas, an avid sports fisherman from Seattle writes, “Shoot the boats.”[11]

John Thomas of Seattle: “Shoot the Boats”

John Thomas of Seattle: “Shoot the Boats”

John Thomas of Seattle: “Shoot the Boats”

Donny Adkerson of Lyman, Washington wrote, “Need torpedoes.” Adkerson appears to be at least an online supporter of far right and paramilitary causes. In addition to “liking” racist presidential candidate Donald Trump on his Facebook page, Adkerson “likes” the paramilitary far right group Oath Keepers and the “Bundy Ranch” page of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher whose conflict with the Bureau of Land Management sparked an armed mobilization by militia activists in 2014. Bundy became notorious for racism against African-Americans during the standoff, telling the New York Times,

I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro…because they were basically on government subsidy…They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.[12]

Oath Keepers has engaged in armed mobilizations to support mining on federal lands in Montana and Oregon.[13]

Another anti-tribal commenter supports actions to injure Native fishers in the process of attempting to interfere with federally-reserved treaty rights:

Travis Haehn If they can fish we should be able to! If we cant,(sic) then its dam (sic) time to send some logs down river, or old bales anything to sink the nets, if one is lucky maybe a few cheating Indians too.

Yet another opponent of tribal fishing pines for the colonial practice of using small pox-infested blankets to murder Indian people:

Jon Pulling Maybe we can trade them some small pox blankets for a few weeks fishing.

A number of commenters called for illegal efforts to interfere with federally-protected treaty fishing rights. This included advocating violence in the form of vandalism to tribal property and actions that could threaten the lives and safety of tribal fishers. The most common among these encouraged throwing hay bales into the river to interfere with tribal net-fishing. One example was Mike Bredstrand, who sports a photo of Donald Trump as his Facebook profile picture:

Mike Bredstrand Someone throw some hay bails off the nearest bridge to tear the nets up!

Another Facebook exchange shows the tenor of this conversation:

Jennifer Raymond Throw in some bales of hay!

Mel Roberts Hay sinks to (sic) fast you need straw bales with couple feet of barb wire.

One commenter, Thomas Millirons of Des Moines, Washington, offered advice on how to avoid legal problems arising from illegal interference with tribal fishing:

Thomas Millirons It’s against the law to be a hindrance to them while they net. You can’t even cast within 50′ of nets on most rivers. So bails (sic) of hay from a 1/8th mile up stream sounds completely legal to me:)))))))

Brice Melum Get hay bale in the water that will take care of those nets

Apparently excited by Millirons’ post, Brice Melum also sports an emblem with the name Lavoy Fincicum as his profile picture. Fincicum is the far rightist killed in a shootout with federal agents after he and other heavily armed militia activists illegally occupied the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon early this year. Among Melum’s “likes” are the Second Amendment Foundation of Alan Gottlieb, an early leader of the anti-environmental Wise Use movement. Melum also “likes” the Gavin Seim for Liberty page. Seim, a prominent supporter of the Malheur occupation, has proclaimed “Islam is NOT a religion of peace, it’s root is tyranny and it is right to oppose it with truth…MUHAMMAD…was a murderous pedophile; enemy of God, enemy of liberty, slave master, rapist and liar.”[14]

Others offered additional means of illegally interfering with tribal fishing:

Joe Raikovics writes “CUT THE DAMB NETS!!!”

Tina Aus  too bad most sportfishermen only want to complain and not actually do anything about it. I like this idea of clogging the shorelines with boats…passive aggressive, works for me!

Mike Grahn [Arlington, Washington] How effective would there (sic) drift nets b with a few dozen strategically anchored boats ??

Other commenters called for organizing larger protests against tribes:

John Bihon [of JB Construction in Sedro-Wooley, Washington] What needs to happen this year is we start a huge protest against our government and our Native friends …we all crab (sic) a pole and a boat and have us one huge day of fishing in the Skagit ..WHY NOT ! Its an election year in KAOOS , So we all should just join in and make it a year to remember !! Time to make history of our own as the paying and keep paying whiteman !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ronnie Clayton The illegal mexicans can protest , we should be able to also

Among Ronnie Clayton’s “likes” are the Texas Nationalist Movement, a Nederland, Texas-based secessionist organization that declares that “Unrestricted and uncontrolled migration is the path of national suicide.” In keeping with his views on “illegal mexicans” (sic), Clayton also likes the anti-immigrant group, NumbersUSA, as well as the Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, Christians for Donald Trump, We Support Donald Trump and Honorable Trump, the latter dedicated to the untenable notion that “Donald Trump is a honorable man, a decent man, a honest man and will make a great president!.” NumbersUSA has worked to push anti-immigrant politics in the Tea Party movement while its leader, Roy Beck, has spoken at an event hosted by the white nationalist Council of Conservative Citizens and worked with white nationalist anti-immigrant activist John Tanton. (See Tea Party Nationalism and Beyond FAIR).

Several comments centered on calls to boycott tribal businesses. Typical of these was the following:

Patti Costello Lierman Everyone needs to stop going to the casinos!!! Send them emails & tell them. All these small towns who depend on fishing tourism, this is sickening….pure hypocrisy! I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m nit a gambler but I’ve been to The Steak House at Silver Reef, concerts at Tulalip…no more!

Aggrieved White People and the Racialization of Indians

Some members of modern far right movements, ranging from the Tea Party to armed militias and Donald Trump supporters, have expressed a false sense of white dispossession in America. This is also true of some opponents of tribal fishing commenting on the Skagit Breaking news page. Related to this, some couple their opposition to tribal fishing with the argument that tribes receive “special rights” as a result of their “race.” The language of special rights has long been mustered by organized anti-Indian groups in their campaigns to terminate tribes and abrogate treaties.

Such views misconstrue the nature of tribal rights, rhetorically turning distinct Indian Nations into a monolithic “race” so as to strip them of treaty-reserved rights. While racism has always accompanied attacks tribes, tribal treaty rights are actually rooted in the political relationship between the United States and tribes as sovereign nations. As nations, not racial groups, tribes entered into treaties that reserved long-standing fishing and hunting rights in exchange for land. The Supreme Court referred to tribes as “distinct, independent political communities” as early as the 1832 decision in Worcester v Georgia. This political status provides the basis for treaty-reserved fishing rights. By attempting to cast Indian Nations in “racial” terms, opponents of tribal fishing create a framework for the dispossession of tribes.

In an example of such comments on the Skagit news page, Will Honea of Sedro Wooley, Washington writes that the

“important point is that there is one class of citizens in this country. No one has more or less rights than anyone else because of their race. Allowing one racial group to fish while everyone else stands on the bank pissed off inevitably leads to bad blood. So does giving one racial group special rights to gambling, alcohol, etc. When people in a community are governed by different rules because of their race, history teaches us that it always ends poorly.”

In line with his “special rights” rhetoric, among Honea’s Facebook likes are the Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (CAPR).[15] This Enumclaw, Washington-based group has chapters in Washington State and California and opposes environmental measures such as critical areas buffers used to protect streams, wetlands and shorelines. Such measures are critical in maintaining water quality and fisheries habitat, including salmon in the Skagit River. One CAPR California chapter has described environmental and social justice as “cancers” and promoted the “Agenda 21” conspiracy theory – a far right view that holds that American citizens supporting environmental sustainability are involved in an evil United Nations conspiracy against the United States. As pointed out by Sandra Robson, a Whatcom County, Washington-based citizen researcher and journalist, CAPR is now led by Executive Director Glen Morgan, the former Property Rights Director for the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation. Morgan attended a 2013 conference hosted by the anti-Indian Citizens Equal Rights Alliance in Bellingham, Washington. CERA employs the same language as Mr. Honea to promote terminating tribes and abrogating treaties.[16]

In a consciously racial tone Joyce Holland wrote, “They should have to fish just like the white guy.” The comment received 35 likes.[17] Shawn Doyle of University Place, Washington posted an image of a “Race Card” stating, “Share and Like If You’re Sick to Death of People Playing the Race Card!”[18] This tired canard is commonly used to attack people who call attention to institutional and cultural racism in American society.

Kendra London of Mount Vernon, Washington, couples a reference to the “race card” with the “equal rights” language of the anti-Indian movement:

 This is 2016 when we gonna stop pulling that race card and buck up and be a normal citizens and stop victimizing themselves?…Stop living in the past!!!!…And to be clear I am not against a specific race or human. I simply want fair rights for everyone and for our generations to be able to know what a salmon is…[19]

Danny Stonedahl, the Bellingham, Washington-based Guide/Owner of the River Chrome Guide Service, a Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula salmon and steelhead fishing guide company, reduces tribal fishing rights to a matter of skin color in the context of attacking tribal fishing.[20]

Danny Stonedahl The fishery is discriminatory. The tribe is fishing and allowed to fish because of the color of their skin, yet we cannot. This isnt (sic) fair, to us or this fish. This fishery doesnt (sic) promote equality is the point, it makes things so much worse and im (sic) glad they are reporting on this disgusting event.

Bruce Emerson of Bow, Washington casts tribal fishing as an attempt to take resources away from “the white man”:

Bruce Wesolek Emerson There (sic) main objective is to a little bit at a time take away all sport fishing, crabbing away from the white man. I know this to be true. Indian from the Lummie (sic) tribe told me that was there over all plan and he thought it pretty funny. They are in no way trying to save the fish. We need to get rid of the left wing politicians in this state and replace with common cense (sic) thinking ones!!!

Emerson “likes” pages such far right militia advocate Larry Pratt’s Gun Owners of America and the Tea Party groups, FreedomWorks and Emerson also expresses his “like” of the anti-immigrant NumbersUSA.[21]

Crass Bigotry and Stereotypes

As in the 1980s, when anti-Indian activists in Wisconsin invented “Treaty Beer” to fundraise for their cause, crass bigotry and stereotypes have gone hand-in-hand with mobilizations against tribal rights. The current case is no exception.

Matthew Marandola, employed at City Tree Service in Anacortes, started an online thread on the Skagit news site by calling tribal fishers “slobs.” His comment was followed by people mocking tribal religion and implying that Indian people are only authentic if they use 19th century technologies (See more on this theme below). As if to drive home that his drivel is racist, Marondola is shown at the top of this article, rifle in hand, in front of a Confederate Flag. Marondola’s thread:

Matthew Marandola And they wonder why we have no steelhead in the river? This is why.. Get of the river you slobs

Mike Coles Don’t u know, netting using gas powered boats to catch fish only to harvest the eggs and leave thousands of carcasses in the shores is their heritage rights??

Paul Dembowski Yes its the great god evinrude

In addition to “liking” Donald Trump, Marandola “likes” Old Dixie Pride. A peddler of apparel and other merchandise emblazoned with Confederate Flags, Old Dixie Pride touts itself as “a community of people who are proud of our country’s Southern Heritage and ain’t afraid to show it!”[22] Another Marandola “like” is the “It’s Not Racism, It’s Southern Pride” group. Of the Civil War, the group writes,

It was not a race thing, as there were also about 40,000 free black men that offered their services for the Confederacy. However, due to supply shortages and the ideology of the time, they were turned away. It’s a Southern Pride thing, not a race thing. So you can’t play that card with us.[23]

While the Civil War was arguably multi-causal, dismissing among these causes the “race thing” and minimizing the abject white supremacy of the southern “ideology of the time” breaks the truth and is simply offensive. Paul Dembrowski of Sedro Wooley, who responded to Marandola’s post, includes among his “likes” Larry Pratt’s Gun Owners of America and racist Libertarian Ron Paul.

While Matthew Marandola plays on the “Dirty Indian” stereotype, other opponents of tribal fishing rights opted for different themes. Phillip Halstead of Big Lake, Washington, writes “What do you call a white man surrounded by Indians? The bartender.” Halstead “likes” Donald Trump and Sarah Palin on his Facebook page.[24] Another racist commenter invoked a stereotype of “lazy” Indians. Again, this bigotry takes place alongside the call to outlaw tribal net fishing, an action found to be discriminatory against Indian people, and therefore illegal, by the U.S. Supreme Court.[25] This exchange:

Courtney Keele This should be illegal. That is BY FAR the most laziest way I’ve ever seen somebody “fish”. They take these fish and sell them. It’s common knowledge up river… Takes a lot more patience and effort to fish with a pole…

Jason Metcalf Its still not how you [Indians] fished when your treaty was signed. Use throw nets and canoes. That is your heritage. Is it not.

Courtney Keele The way they’re doing it is lazy, and all they’re actually doing is getting these fish to sell on the black market. It’s not for “cultural” purposes because if it was they’d be using canoes and arrows.

Other commenters coupled the falsehood that Native people receive money because they are Native with themes used to attack both tribal peoples and people who receive public assistance.

Stephan Pittman Tired of hearing how much the tribes suffer. How much do you get paid a month for being native? How much do you get for each kid? How much do you get for doing nothing!?

Pittman is from Puyallup, Washington where he is the owner-operator of Washington Anglers G.S., a guided sport fishing and sight-seeing company. Among Pittman’s likes are the Coastal Conservation Association, the recreational fishing industry group that hosted the May 5 protest in Lacey[26]

Other comments are simply vulgar.

Rex Rich Watford Some sorry fuc*s do they not get enough money from casinos? I guess they are above the law in this pussified state

One like on Watford’s page is Muckleshaft, the online effort set up to blame the Muckleshoot and other tribes for restrictions on salmon fishing.[27]

Also in the vulgarity vein:

Luke Vossbeck [Anacortes, Washington] River rapists at work

Ryan Staci Hills Raping our rivers!!!!

Jim Speaker Motherf***ers!!!!!

And finally, in response to an online discussant supporting treaty fishing, this:

Mel Roberts …this,is,pics,from,here,da injuns,left da,chum,saalmoons,on da,bank after,Dey,cut out,da eggs

As we saw above, Mel Roberts advocates putting hay bales wrapped in barb wire into the river to illegally interfere with treaty-protected fishing.

Calls for an End to Treaty Rights or Tribal Sovereignty

Other commenters used the conflict to call for broader attacks on inherent tribal sovereignty and treaty rights. This common practice of the organized anti-Indian movement exploits disagreements with tribes to justify termination and treaty abrogation. While sometimes this is made explicit, frequently it takes the form of calling for the unilateral extension of all laws and regulations into Indian Country. While this can sound deceptively like equality, it is in fact a call for the end of tribal self-governance and for coerced assimilation.

For instance, Theresa Keels of Sedro Wooley, Washington wrote, “Subsistence fishing or hunting is no longer necessary and should be stopped. Ceremonial fishing? Still should be within the same regulations as everyone else.”[28] Others expressed similar ideas:

Carl Hendricks It’s time for tribes to become part of the USA under the same laws or get nothing from the government.

Raife Hulse Agreed!!! This being part of the white mans world when it suites me crap need to go

Hendricks Facebook “likes” include the Tea Party group, FreedomWorks. In addition to Donald Trump, Raife Hulse “likes” the far right Bundy Ranch page.[29]

“Inauthentic” Indians, or Indians as People of the Past

Since the dawn of time, cultures have adapted to their changing surroundings, utilizing new technologies, institutions and ideas as they come into the contact with other peoples around them. The ancient Sumerians, for example, appear to have adopted agricultural practices and farming-related language from Semitic peoples in the surrounding area. Here in the United States, our common law (precedent-based legal decision-making) is adapted from British common law traditions. Our own early Articles of Confederation and Constitution were at least influenced by the governments of the Iroquois Confederacy and other tribes.[31] On the technology front, corn production methods from Eastern tribes helped save early American colonists, while the early Republic heavily recruited British inventors to America to gain technologies critical in building a textile industry. Even today, the embedded chips in check and debit cards were used in Europe for many years before being recently adopted in the U.S.[32] The list could go on.

While no one would argue that the United States’ adoption of institutions and technologies from other peoples should bring an end to Bill of Rights, a common theme in anti-Indian mobilizations is that Indian people are only authentic, and their legal claims only legitimate, if they fit the stereotype of 19th century Indians. These stereotypes, not incidentally, are those that have appeared in many, many Hollywood westerns and other movies. These bigoted ideas are deployed in an attempt to invalidate tribal rights when tribal members use technologies or economic practices different than those used prior to contact with Europeans.

Typical of such comments are:

  • Kim Burgess of Arlington, Washington writes, “If it’s ancestral/heritage…they should be using hand made canoes and gear.”[33]
  • Sean Martin, writes, “Traditional is canoes not freaking motorboat.
  • In response to Sean Martin’s post, CAPR-liker Will Honea folds this themes into an attack on treaties: “The treaties did not envision this kind of activity, i.e., commercial harvest and selling salmon into international commerce.”
  • Jeramie Picknell: “The want to fish ditch the motors, alulminum (sic) boats, and commercial gear they are using. They should do it as their ancestors truly did”

Jim Cameron of Hamilton, Washington couples the inauthentic Indian argument with the absurd claim that “tribal GREED!” is eliminating species:

Jim Cameron Bank to bank drift gill nets equal species elimination. All species just due to tribal GREED! IF they did it to preserve their culture they would be out tending the traditional fish traps at the mouth.

Among Cameron’s Facebook “likes” are the Bundy Ranch page of Cliven Bundy, the page of Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips, far right Constitutional “theorist” KrisAnne Hall, the Modern Militia Movement, the Tea Party Blog, Tea Party Patriots and the Washington Policy Center.[34]


The coupling of mobilizations against tribal fishing rights with bigotry, stereotypes and calls for violence against Native people is a sad fact of our state’s history. As in the years immediately following the original Boldt decision, this troubling pattern continues.

While groups such as the Coastal Conservation Association do not spew the crass anti-Indianism documented in this report, in the context of pressing for a greater share of tribally-allocated fish for their industry, the CCA organized a protest, distorted facts about tribal fishing, and mimicked the “equal rights” language of the organized anti-Indian movement. Such actions can contribute to an environment in which bigotry and hostility toward Indian people can reoccur. It is incumbent on the Coastal Conservation Association and other industry groups to deal honestly with tribes and respect tribal treaty rights and fisheries.

It is also incumbent on people of good will to stand with tribes to support the restoration of habitat necessary to protect this treasure that makes our region unique in the world.



[1] Bernton, Hal. Sport fishermen protest ‘broken’ program as tribes gillnet chinook. Seattle Times. May 4, 2016.

[2] Washington v. Washington State Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel Association. 443 U.S. 658.

[3] Winters, Chris. No ocean coho this year; tribes cancel inland season. HeraldNet. April 16, 2016.; Northwest Treaty Tribes. Treaty Tribes propose restricted fisheries in face of historically low coho year. April 14, 2016.; Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife. Low returns of coho may hamper salmon fisheries. March 1, 2016.

[4] Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. News Release. April 29, 2016.; Mayor, Jeffery. Puget Sound salmon fishing season negotiations break down. Tacoma News Tribune. April 14, 2016.

[5] Yuasa, Mark. Sport fishermen protesting in La Conner on Wednesday as tribal gill-net salmon fishery gets underway. Seattle Times. May 3, 2016.; Bronson, Andy. Tribal and non-Indian anglers ‘fighting over last fish’. HeraldNet. May 7, 2016.; Walgamott, Andy. BIA Oked North Sound Tribal Chinook Fisheries; Sport Rally in Lacey Thurs. May 4, 2016. Northwest Sportsman.

[6] Baltzell, Mark, Carey, Jon, Kloempken, Karen and Laurie Peterson. 2014. Total Encounters and Mortality Estimates for Puget Sound Recreational Chinook Mark-Selective Fisheries Monitored using Baseline Sampling: 2011-2012. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Olympia, Washington.

[7] Northwest Marine Trade Association, Coastal Conservation Association, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Outdoor Line, Puget Sound Anglers. Press Release: Recreational Fishing Community Statement Regarding 2016 North of Falcon Salmon Season Setting Process. April 15, 2016; Yuasa, Mark. Sport fishermen protesting In La Conner on Wednesday as tribal gill-net salmon fishery gets underway. Seattle Times. May 3, 2016.; Baurick, Tristan. Catch-and-release injuries close salmon season early. Kitsap Sun. November 29, 2015.

[8] Coastal Conservation Association Washington. Concerned Anglers Rally in Support of Fairness and Equality for Puget Sound Fisheries. May 7, 2016.

[9] Congressional Review and Edit of Pacific Northwest Tribal Fishing Rights.; Muckleshaft.

[10] Mike Benoit. Facebook Page. (

[11] John Thomas. Facebook Page. (

[12] Nagourney, Adam. A Defiant Rancher Savors the Audience that Rallied to His Side. New York Times. April 23, 2014.

[13] Donnie Adkerson. Facebook Page.

[14] Gavin Seim for Liberty.; Gavin Seim for Liberty.

[15] Will Honea. Facebook Page Likes. (

[16] See Tanner, Chuck and Leah Henry-Tanner. 2012. Trampling on the Treaties. Independent Research Reports; Borderlands Research and Education. 2014.No Justice on the Plate: Transnational Companies and the Right Oppose Fish Consumption Justice and Tribal Treaty Rights. Silverdale, WA; Email conversation with Sandra Robson. April 25, 2016.

[17] Joyce Holland. Facebook Page. (

[18] Shawn Doyle. Facebook Page.

[19] Kendra London. Facebook Page.

[20] Danny Stonedahl. (,

[21] Bruce Emerson. Facebook Page. ( ).

[22] Old Dixie Pride.

[23] Matthew Marandola. Facebook Page. May 5, 2016.; It’s Not Racism, It’s Southern Pride. Facebook Page.

[24] Halstead, Phillip. Facebook Page.

[25] See, for instance, Department of Game of Washington v. Puyallup (414 U.S. 44, 1973) where the court held that a Washington State ban on tribal net fishing was found illegal because it discriminated against Indians.

[26] Stephan Pittman. Facebook Page.

[27] Muckleshaft. Facebook Page.; Rex Rich Watford. Facebook Page.

[28] Theresa Keels. Facebook Page.

[29] Carl Hendricks. Facebook Page.; Raife Hulse. Facebook Page.

[30] Mitch Williams. Facebook Page.

[31] For extended discussion of this influence, see Miller, Robert J. 1993 American Indian Influence on the United States Constitution and Its Framers. American Indian Law Review. Vol 8(1).; Miller, Robert J. 2015. American Indian Constitutions and Their Influence on the United States Constitution. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Vol 159(1).

[32] Wolf, Christopher. The U.S. Complains that others steal its technology, but it was once a tech pirate. Public Radio International. February 18, 2014.; Elkins, Kathleen. Why it took the US so long to adopt the credit card technology Europe has used for years. Business Insider.; Mann, Charles. 2006. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Vintage Books.

[33] Kim Burgess. Facebook Page.

[34] Jim Cameron. Facebook Page.


Chuck Tanner

Author Chuck Tanner

Chuck Tanner is an Advisory Board member and researcher for the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. He lives in Washington State where he researches and works to counter white nationalism and the anti-Indian and other far right social movements.

More posts by Chuck Tanner