In the treaties negotiated with Washington Native Americans in 1855, the Native Americans were guaranteed the right to fish in their “usual and accustomed places.”
Dependent on fish for their survival, the Native Americans kept fishing at their favorite sites. But as more non-Native Americans moved into their territory, they tried to force Native American fishermen off prime fishing areas.
In the twentieth century, the Native Americans decided to exert their rights in a new way, in the courts.
After a long legal battle, a 1974 court ruling called the Boldt decision declared that the Native Americans’ treaties gave them rights to half of all the fish in area waters. While this finding was a great victory for the Native Americans, they still have to fight non-Native American fishermen to give them access to fishing sites and their fair share of the state’s fish catch.
Chief Seattle was photograhed in 1865 holding a basketry rain hat in his lap. The Suquamish leader eloquently defended tribal lands and traditions during the negotiation of the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855.