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Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. Stop Treaty Abuse-Wisconsin, Inc.

United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
843 F. Supp. 1284 (W.D. Wisc. 1994)


The Lac Du Flambeau band (plaintiff) was a subset of the Lake Superior Chippewa Indian tribe. Throughout the mid-1800s, the Lake Superior Chippewas signed treaties with the United States government in which the Chippewas agreed to give up land in Wisconsin and other states. As a part of these treaties, the Chippewas reserved the right to continue to hunt and fish on the land. This included the right to spear fish in the lakes and rivers throughout the region. Spear fishing was otherwise illegal throughout Wisconsin, and with the exception of a few lakes, non-Indians in Wisconsin could not engage in spear fishing. In 1988, a Wisconsin corporation called Stop Treaty Abuse-Wisconsin, Inc. (STA) (defendant) began to protest the Chippewas’ special right to spear fish. STA members would hold large protests where Chippewa spear fishing was taking place and would obstruct the fishing with motorboats and disturb the fish. The protesters would also taunt the Chippewas and yell racial slurs, as well as call the Chippewas derogatory names and harass them repeatedly. To encourage continued protests, pamphlets were distributed that depicted the Chippewas as lazy and dependent on government assistance. Eventually, the Lac Du Flambeau band sought a permanent injunction against the STA to stop the interference with the Chippewas’ right to spear fish. The Lac Du Flambeau band alleged that the STA was racially discriminating against the Chippewas in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1982, which provided that all individuals were entitled to the same property rights as the rights enjoyed by white citizens. The federal district court initially granted summary judgment to the Lac Du Flambeau band. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit remanded the case and instructed the district court to determine whether racial discrimination had occurred.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Crabb, C.J.)

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