Supreme Court in U.S. v. Winans hands down first Native American fishing rights case in 1905.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/08/2000
  • Essay 2595
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In 1905, the U.S. Supreme court hands down the first decision addressing Native American fishing rights in U.S. v. Winans (198 U.S. 371). The court holds that the treaties "documented certain rights the Indians were granting to non-Indians, as well as certain other rights the Indians chose to reserve for themselves." In this case, the Yakima Tribe had licensed to a non-Native company a fish wheel at a traditional fishing site.

This decision did not prevent state authorities from limiting treaty rights. In 1916, the Washington State Supreme Court ignored the Winans case and ruled against treaty fishing rights, subjecting tribal members off reservation to state fishing regulations.


Cesare Marino, "History of Western Washington Since 1846," Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 7, Northwest Coast (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1990), 175.

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