Fish waste causes tension

Many tribes reserved their traditional rights to take certain species and plants in the treaties they negotiated with the United States. These rights survive to this day. Sometimes, however, controversies arise over the exercise of these rights, or as reported here, the possible misuse of these rights.

In Minnesota, several hundred walleye carcasses were dumped in a field near Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota. This incident threatens to ignite local tensions about tribal fishing.

A neighbor found a pile of rotting fish, including hundreds of filleted walleyes and several whole northern pike, on the edge of a field in rural Isle, Minn.

The neighbor alerted the property’s owner, Dennis Tenhoff, who then called the state’s Department of Natural Resources to open an investigation.
Tenhoff’s property is about three miles from Mille Lacs Lake, where eight tribal bands have netting rights as a result of a 1999 Supreme Court decision.

The court’s ruling sparked anger from local fishermen who argue that the 100-foot-long nets capture too many fish and damage the lake. The tribal bands are allowed to net 132,500 pounds of walleye this season.
“It’s bad enough they way it is with them netting, the hard feelings,” Tenhoff said. “Then to do stuff like this just adds fuel to the fire.”

Investigators said they don’t have any suspects in the case, and have cautioned against assuming that tribal members are to blame.

In fact, this might not be the result of Indian fishing at all. A spokesperson for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commissionr said he’s investigating whether the incident could be connected to the theft of four tribal fishing nets. The nets were reported stolen four days before Tenhoff’s neighbor discovered the rotting walleyes.

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