Boldt ruling's effect felt around the world
A 203-page ruling handed down in a federal courtroom
In the three decades since Judge George Boldt handed down his ruling on the
"It's still the granddaddy of them all,"
said Robert Anderson, a Minnesota Chippewa tribe member and director of the
"Dozens and dozens of cases, and I'm sure well into the hundreds" have cited Boldt's precedent-setting ruling as the basis of legal arguments over Indian treaty rights, Anderson said.
Boldt -- considered a
conservative jurist and, himself an avid sport angler -- ruled that Washington
Territorial Gov. Isaac Stevens' mid-1850s treaties with
The ruling essentially meant that off-reservation tribal hunting and fishing rights provided in treaties with the federal government "weren't a gift or an entitlement to the tribes, but something that belonged to them -- like a property right," said Michael Taylor, reservation attorney for the Tulalip Tribes.
"It's the modern case that is sort of the basis for interpretation of what treaties mean," added Taylor, who 30 years ago represented the Quinault Indian Nation during the case's trial.
Indian tribes in
Courts have used the Boldt
case as a legal framework to help determine inherent indigenous rights cases
involving First Nations in
Only this week, lawyers for the Makah Tribe filed a petition for rehearing a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' 2002 ruling that essentially halted that tribe's recent gray whale hunts.
"The Boldt Decision is
the whole basis of our case," said John Arum, the tribe's attorney, who
added that he's used the ruling as the foundation of treaty rights cases for
tribes as far away as
"A number of commentators have called the Boldt Decision the most significant Indian rights case in the last century," said Mason Morisset, a Seattle attorney who successfully defended the Boldt ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1979 -- defeating then-Washington Attorney General Slade Gorton's appeals to overturn it.
"I would have to say they're probably right."
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