Treaty tribes are celebrating the return of salmon in the Pacific Northwest as they await a major decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, a case pursued by Washington state's attorney general. Photo: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Gyasi Ross: Washington attorney general attacks tribal treaty rights

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to decide a major treaty rights case in Washington, potentially overturning a victory secured by 21 tribes in the state. How did Indian Country get here?

Writing in Crosscut, Native activist Gyasi Ross pinpoints the state's Democratic attorney general as the culprit. According to Ross, Bob Ferguson is just as bad as Republican President Donald Trump when it comes to tribal rights:
Twenty-one Washington tribes sued Washington over state roads with tiny culverts that restrict salmon migration, and therefore limit tribes' treaty fishing rights. That is the so-called “Culverts Case.” Fortunately, a federal court said the tribes are in the right and the federal court of appeals said the same.

Still, Ferguson brought the case as high as he could to violate treaty rights — all the way to U.S. Supreme Court. It is interesting to note that prominent Democrats Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee as well as Hilary Franz, commissioner of public lands at the Department of Natural Resources and King County Executive Dow Constantine, all oppose Ferguson bringing the case to the Supreme Court. Still, despite the law and his own party’s opposition to his position, Ferguson is committed to violating legal obligations to Native communities.

The Supreme Court is deciding Ferguson’s case against Washington tribes right now. The case further jeopardizes Native treaty rights and Washington honoring its obligations.

Ferguson is on an island against tribal treaty rights — his fellow Democrats in Washington understand that Native Nations should be his allies. And make no mistake: Anti-Treaty rights are anti-Native in the same way that anti-immigration is anti-Latinx and anti-integration is anti-Black. In short, it’s racist. Like Trump.

Read More on the Story:
Gyasi Ross: Why is Bob Ferguson attacking Native rights? (Crosscut June 5, 2018)

9th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions:
US v. Washington (May 19, 2017)
US v. Washington (June 27, 2016)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Monte Mills: Supreme Court weighs old tribal treaties in modern case (May 14, 2018)
Tribes hail historic Supreme Court hire as justices hear treaty rights case (April 18, 2018)
Supreme Court schedules April 18 argument in tribal treaty rights case (February 26, 2018)
Tribes see continued challenges as more cases head to highest court (February 21, 2018)
Supreme Court schedules March 21 argument in tribal property case (January 24, 2018)
Treaty tribes stunned as Supreme Court agrees to hear salmon passage case (January 15, 2018)
Supreme Court shakes up docket by accepting sovereignty case at request of tribe (December 11, 2017)
Treaty tribes upset with appeal in major case amid salmon disaster in Washington (August 29, 2017)
Treaty tribes celebrate after court refuses to rehear salmon dispute (May 22, 2017)
White House task force to address treaty issues in Washington (October 19, 2016)
Washington tribes win major fishing rights decision at appeals court (June 27, 2016)
Washington fights tribal treaty rights decision before 9th Circuit (July 6, 2015)
Washington wants 9th Circuit to take up treaty fishing case (May 29, 2013)
Treaty tribes in Washington win major decision in fishing case (April 1, 2013)