Leech Lake Ojibwe Members Fight for Treaty Rights After Arrest for Harvesting Deer
The beginnings of the next round of federal treaty rights litigation is brewing in northern Minnesota.
On November 1, 2015, two Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe members, Tony Morris and Randy Finn, went into the field near Blackduck, Minnesota with a goal of putting food on the table. Their sole objective was to harvest a deer, not to trigger litigation. However, they managed to do both.
As Morris and Finn dragged a dressed deer out of the woods they were met by a woman who had heard their gunshots. This was her property, she told the two band members, and they were trespassing. The confrontation led to a formal complaint filed in Beltrami County Court in January by the State of Minnesota charging both tribal members with hunting out of season. If convicted, they could receive up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. The tribal members argued in their defense that they were merely invoking preexisting treaty rights, which supercede state law.