The Yakima Indians lived in Washington on a reservation called the Yakima Nation. As part of their treaty with the United States government, the Yakima Indians had the exclusive right to fish in the streams and waterways on their reservation and the right to take fish in the usual and accustomed places outside of their reservation. Despite these rights, the State of Washington began to issue fishing licenses to individuals living outside the Yakima Nation and to permit licensed individuals to set up fishing wheels in the streams around the Yakima Nation. These fishing wheels caught most if not all of the fish in these streams, and blocked the Yakima Indians’ access to these streams. On behalf of the Yakimas, the United States (plaintiff) sued the licensed individuals (defendants) to protect the Yakimas’ access to these streams and fish. The federal circuit court issued a decree in favor of the defendants, and the United States appealed.