The Ojibwa people of North American who lived within the territories of the United States Government in the 1800s made a series of treaties with the US Government, beginning in 1836, that remain in affect today. The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community were but a handful of Native Americans who were not forced to relocate to other areas of North American to make way for territorial expansion. After undergoing many sociological engineering efforts to melt the Native American people into the general population, the US Government resigned itself to accepting a limited sovereignty of each individual Native American tribe. As a result, these treaties today have had tremendous impact on the Native people throughout the United States. The impact on the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in Baraga and L'Anse has been great. Its sovereignty was recognized in 1936, 100 years after the first major treaty was signed.
KBIC has frequently been in the federal courts fighting for the rights guaranteed them by these treaties. KBIC has also had to fight for their legal rights with the State of Michigan as other tribes have had to fight for their legal rights in the different states they live.
As with all legal documents the key is how to interpret the document. This was finally settled in the Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court has ruled that the critical consideration in examining the treaties made with Native American tribes is not how a modern interpreter and native speaker of English would read a 19th Century document but rather that treaties must be interpreted "as the Indians would have understood them." Justice William O. Douglas wrote a concurring opinion and this position was supported by Worchester V. Georgia.
For the texts of the treaties click on any of the ones listed below.
and for a modern decision rendered in favor of fishing rights click on the