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United States v. Gotchnik

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20012
Nos. No. 99-4288, 222 F.3d 506/(8th Cir., 08/21/2000)

The court holds that the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Act's prohibition on the use of motorboats and motor vehicles in boundary water areas does not offend Native Americans' treaty rights to hunt and fish in a ceded territory encompassed within the boundary waters area of Basswood Lake, Minnesota. The court first notes that the Native Americans clearly possess the right to hunt and fish in the ceded territory under an 1854 treaty. The court then holds, however, that while the treaty protects Native Americans' right to use modern hunting and fishing techniques, it does not similarly authorize the use of modern means of transportation to reach the most desirable hunting and fishing locations. The use of modern gaming instruments and techniques goes to the very essence of the Native Americans' protected rights to subsistence hunt and fish in the ceded territory, whereas the use of the most advanced means of transportation to reach desired hunting and fishing areas is merely peripheral to those rights. The court next holds that the Act's prohibition on the use of motorboats and motor vehicles does not effectively preclude the Native Americans from exercising their hunting and fishing rights. The prohibition may make it somewhat less convenient for the Native Americans to reach the most remote regions of the boundary water area, but this inconvenience does not impermissibly infringe on their treaty rights. Therefore, because the Act does not offend the Native Americans' treaty rights, the court upholds their conviction for using motorboats and motor vehicles in the no motor zone in violation of the Act.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (11 pp., ELR Order No. L-259).

Counsel for Appellee
Clifford Wardlaw
U.S. Attorney's Office
266 U.S. CtHse.
316 N. Robert St., St. Paul MN 55101
(612) 290-4401

Counsel for Appellant
Peter G. Griffin
Jacobson, Buffalo, Schoessler & Magnuson, Ltd.
Iris Park Pl.
1885 University Ave. W., Ste. 246, St. Paul MN 55104
(651) 644-4710