Expert Witness Says Treaties Support Tribal Night-Hunting


Northern Wisconsin Ojibwe tribes seeking federal approval for at-night deer-hunting say treaties signed in the 1800s support their proposal.

In day two of a seven-day trial on tribal night deer-hunting, a treaty rights expert from Canada testifying for the tribes said the Ojibwe have traditionally hunted deer at night using birch bark torches.

University of Wisconsin anthropology professor Larry Nesper, an expert on treaty rights who is following the trial closely, says if that is a tradition then it’s important: Federal courts have accepted that treaties must be interpreted based on how the tribal signers understood them.

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“They had full expectation to continue to live on the lands,” says Nesper.

In cross-examination, attorneys for the state have raised questions about the accuracy of the historical documents that support what Ojibwe traditions actually were. Still, the state’s major contention in this trial is whether the tribes have the expertise to assure that hunting deer at night off the reservation can be carried out safely.