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People v. Patterson

Citation: 35 ELR 20124
No. No. 91, (N.Y., 06/14/2005)

The court held that the Treaty of Canandaigua of 1794 does not vest members of the Tuscarora Indian Nation with off-reservation fishing rights on former Seneca lands. The case arose after a member of the Tuscarora Indian Nation was charged with violating a fishing regulation. He argued that the regulation did not apply to him because it was not a "reasonable and necessary conservation measure." A state law or regulation may impair an off-reservation treaty fishing right only when (1) it represents a reasonable and necessary conservation measure, and (2) it does not discriminate against the Native American treaty rightholders. But the Tuscarora Indian Nation's fishing rights on the land in question were wholly contingent on continued ownership of the land by the Seneca. When the Seneca divested themselves of their interest in the land by the Treaty of Big Tree of 1797, the Tuscarora right to free use and enjoyment ended. Hence, the fishing regulation may be applied to members of the Tuscarora fishing off-reservation just as it applies to everyone else who ice fishes within the state. Whether the regulation is a reasonable and necessary conservation measure is inapposite.