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Case Summary Citation

United States v. Washington, 827 F.3d 836 (9th Cir. 2016).

Abstract

Pacific Northwest Treaties, now known as the Stevens Treaties, were negotiated in the 1850’s between the U.S. and Indian tribes, including the Suquamish Indian Tribe, Jamestown S'Klallam, Lower Elwha Band of Klallams, Port Gamble Clallam, Nisqually Indian Tribe, Nooksack Tribe, Sauk-Suiattle Tribe, Skokomish Indian Tribe, Squaxin Island Tribe, Stillaguamish Tribe, Upper Skagit Tribe, Tulalip Tribes, Lummi Indian Nation, Quinault Indian Nation, Puyallup Tribe, Hoh Tribe, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, Quileute Indian Tribe, Makah Indian Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe (“Tribes”). The Stevens Treaties stated that “the right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and situations, is further secured to said Indians, in common with all citizens of the Territory…” While Indian fishing rights under the Treaty were clearly established, disputes over scope and interpretation have spurred ongoing conflict and litigation between the Tribes and Washington State since 1970. United States v. Washington is yet another installment of case law interpreting these fishing rights in favor of the tribes, this time holding that Washington has a duty to refrain from building culverts that hinder fish passage and reduce the number of fish available for tribal harvest. The court further held that Washington’s current culverts violated this duty, necessitating their removal.

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