I read a shocking article in the StarTribune yesterday, in which outdoors writer Doug Smith described the attempt by Chippewa tribes in Wisconsin to allow night hunting for whitetail deer.
My first thought was “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Then, as I continued to reflect on this disturbing action by the tribes, I recalled that this is exactly the kind of thing I have feared all along in the ongoing treaty rights debate.
I wondered if the victories won by the tribes would lead to more actions like this. It’s understandable that, after winning a major victory, they might try to win more rights.
But, where do you draw the line? That’s the question I keep asking. I understand that we have to honor whatever rights the treaties have granted. But, I think it can be very hard to understand just what rights the bands are entitled to. And, with so many more people using the resources now than when the treaties were signed 150 years ago, the implications are more dramatic.
For me, a big issue is the whole concept of “sovereign nation” status that the tribes have. I would like to see that come to an end and have everyone in the country governed by one set of laws. I don’t necessarily mean just take over the bands and forces our laws upon them. But rather, enter into intense and determined negotiations to settle the matter once and for all.
If we don’t, things like the night-hunting proposal will keep popping up. And, I don’t believe things like this do one bit of good in helping build relations between Indians and non-Indians. Building bridges between the two cultures is desperately needed and long overdue. I don’t think it is a good long-term solution to continue to have sovereign nation status. If the bands continue to get more rights, there is going to be a pushback. Imagine deer hunters setting up camp on the eve of the firearms opener, then hearing shots in the dark and seeing flashlights shining in the woods.
Thankfully, a judge in Wisconsin temporarily blocked the band’s plan to night hunt for deer. But, the issue is far from over. There still must be a final ruling in the case, which sets up the possibility of night hunting in Wisconsin for deer.
I, for one, hope this never happens. Deer hunters – and the deer themselves – deserve better.