U.S. Supreme Court in Tulee v. Washington upholds some Native American treaty fishing rights on March 30, 1942.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/08/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2593
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On March 30, 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the rights granted in treaties for Native Americans in Washington to fish in their "usual and accustomed places" without a state fishing license. The Court permits state regulation of "manner of fishing" outside reservations "as are necessary for the conservation of fish," but forecloses the state from charging Indians a fee for a fishing license. Pursuant to Tulee v. Washington (315 U.S. 681) the Bureau of Indian Affairs issues "blue cards" to all eligible tribal members who fish through the 1950s and 1960s.

Sampson Tulee, a member of the Yakima tribe, was convicted in Klickitat County of catching salmon with a net, without first having obtained a license. Tulee appealed on the grounds that paying for a license was repugant to a treaty made between the United States and the Yakima Indians.

However, the Tulee case left it to state fisheries managers to say which measures were conservation measures. Consequently, when some Indians celebrated the legal victory by fishing in defiance of state law, fisheries managers made new regulations that, according to Alexandra Harmon in Indians in the Making, "put the brunt of conservation restraints on Indians."


Cesare Marino, "History of Western Washington Since 1846," Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 7, Northwest Coast, (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1990), 169-179; Alexandra Harmon, Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities Around Puget Sound (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 229; Tulee v. Washington. 315 U.S. 681 (1942).

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