SEATTLE (CN) - Native American tribes fighting over fishing rights in Washington asked the 9th Circuit to intervene in separate proceedings last week.
The cases stems from a 1974 injunction by U.S. District Judge George Hugo Bolt in U.S. v. Washington that affirmed certain tribal fishing rights the state had been denying.
Among numerous subproceedings, the Tulalip back in 2005 requested a permanent injunction to prevent the Suquamish from fishing in waters outside their usual and accustomed, or U & A, grounds, an area determined by the 9th Circuit in 1990. The Suquamish were accused in that case of fishing on the east side of Puget Sound, in violation of court order.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez last year clarified "the geographic scope" of the Suquamish fishing grounds in Bolt's decision. He said Bolt "relied heavily" on the reports of anthropologist Dr. Barbara Lane, who testified about various tribes' traditional fishing areas in the 1974 case.
Martinez said it was "nearly certain" Bolt intended to include Possession Sound and waters at the mouth of the Snohomish River in the Suquamish U & A.
"On the other hand, there is an absence of evidence in her [Lane's] report regarding Suquamish fishing in the waters on the eastern side of Whidbey Island such as Skagit Bay, Saratoga Passage and its connecting bays Penn Cove and Holmes Harbor, and Port Susan," the July 29, 2013, ruling says. "Therefore the court finds that Judge Boldt did not intend to include these areas in the Suquamish U&A."
The Tulalip appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit. After a three-judge panel's Aug. 8 hearing in the Tulalip dispute, it heard the appeal by the Quileute and Quinault tribes of a similar decision by favoring the Makah tribe.
The Makah filed their Bolt subproceeding in 2009 to determine the boundaries of U & A fishing areas for the Quileute and Quinault tribes. The Ho tribe opposed the Makah's motion as an interested party. In the complaint, the Makah argued the tribes intend to harvest Pacific whiting outside their traditional fishing grounds, which would affect the Makah's catch. Pacific whiting travel from south to north, so the Quileute and Quinault would harvest the fish before the Makah.
Martinez let the case to proceed to trial by granting the Makah partial summary judgment last year. The Quileute and Quinault objected, arguing they waived sovereign immunity in the 1974 case only for determining their fishing rights in Washington. They claimed the court did not have authority over waters outside the 3-mile limit from the shore.
Martinez found that "incorrect" on July 8, 2013, saying the court's jurisdiction extends to all treaty-based fishing and not limited to Washington waters.
The Quinault and Quileute's claims of sovereign immunity also failed.
"The tribes came to Court in 1970 asking the court to determine and enforce their treaty rights, and they subjected themselves to the court's jurisdiction for all purposes relating to the exercise of their treaty rights," he wrote. "The Quinault and Quileute objections to the Makah motion for partial summary judgment on jurisdiction are thus without merit."
Ho intervened in the appeals by both tribes.