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Great Lakes Decree FAQs

  • The 1836 Treaty involved a territory purchase between the United States and Ottawa and Chippewa Indian Tribes of the northern Lower Peninsula and the eastern Upper Peninsula of what would later become the State of Michigan.

    Within this treaty, the tribes retained the rights to hunt, fish and gather on the lands and waters contained within the treaty boundary. In this regard, the treaty did not grant the tribes these rights, rather they were never relinquished. The US Supreme Court has consistently ruled that time cannot erode these rights and that state laws must give way to Indian treaties.

  • In this case, a consent decree is an agreement that has the backing of a federal court and governs allocation, management, and regulation of state and tribal fisheries in the 1836 Treaty waters of the Great Lakes. It outlines management of numerous species but puts particular emphasis on lake trout and lake whitefish. It describes who can fish where and when, with what gear types, how rules will be enforced, and how information will be shared among those who co-manage the resource.

  • This decree affects the Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, the state of Michigan and the United States. Natural resources agencies from these governments must adopt regulations consistent with the decree.

  • Fisheries will be managed similarly to the previous decree.

    Harvest limits will be set for lake trout and lake whitefish based on population modeling and target mortality rates. The harvest limits will be allocated to state and tribal fishers with only small changes from recent history.

    Gear types will be limited in some areas by season, depth, and amount, and the species that were prohibited for commercial fishers in the most recent decree will remain prohibited for sale.

    The state of Michigan, United States, and the tribes have agreed to enhanced information sharing in the new decree that will improve both biological management of fish populations and accountability for commercial use of public resources. Enforcement of regulations will continue to be cooperative, as it was in the prior decree. Cooperative enforcement means that state conservation officers can enforce tribal regulations, and it promotes law enforcement from multiple agencies to collaborate to ensure the regulations negotiated in the decree are followed.