TAHOLAH, WA (7/9/15)—Federal District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez handed down a decision today favoring the Quinault Indian Nation, as well as the Quileute Tribe, confirming the tribes’ right to fish in the ocean. The case, which was first filed in 2009, pitted the two tribes against the Makah Tribe in a territorial battle for fishing rights.
“We make every effort to avoid intertribal conflicts such as this, and that was certainly the case here, but the Makah Tribe, joined by the State of Washington, brought this lawsuit to limit the Quinault Nation’s treaty ocean fishing so Quinault was forced to defend its treaty rights. We are very fortunate to have federal court to resort to in those rare instances when we need it.”
Judge Martinez ruled that Quinault Nation’s Usual and Accustomed fishing area extends 30 miles out to sea from the Tribe’s reservation on the Olympic Peninsula.
“We are obviously very pleased with this decision,” said President Sharp. “We had no doubt whatsoever that our fishing heritage includes the ocean, and that was confirmed by the judge” she said.
The decision confirms that Quinault fishers will be able to continue fishing in the ocean for generations to come.
Judge Martinez accepted the Quinault Nation’s evidence regarding its heritage and reserved treaty rights. This lawsuit was part of the 1974 U.S. v. Washington (Boldt) case which confirmed tribal treaty fishing rights. That case was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978.
“Winning this case will not only help secure our long held ocean fishing heritage for our fishermen; it will also help us continue to manage ocean fish stocks properly. We will work with the Makah Nation, as well as other tribes and other governments to help assure that there are healthy stocks of salmon and other species in the ocean environment for many generations to come,” said President Sharp.
The Quinault Nation was represented in the trial by Eric Nielsen of Nielsen, Broman & Coch of Seattle. Quinault attorney Ray Dodge also contributed significantly to the case, which resulted in an 83 page decision by Judge Martinez, much of which documents the extensive long term relationship of the Quinault people with the ocean.