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The 1859 Treaty between the United States and the Indians of the Yakima Nation in the State of Washington is not a grant of rights to the Indians, but a grant of rights from them -- a reservation of those granted.
Pursuant to a 1859 Treaty between the United States and the Indians of the Yakima Nation, the Indians retained fishing rights along the Columbia River in the State of Washington. Respondents placed fish wheels in the river, which rapidly diminished the supply of salmon in the river due to their efficiency. They used these fish wheels pursuant to patents and contracts with the state government. Respondents claimed that when Washington became a state, it regained the power over it property regardless of existing treaties.
Were the State's patents subject to the 1859 Treaty?
The Court held that the 1859 Treaty was unaffected by the grant of statehood. Interpreting the treaty, the Court concluded that it was not a grant of rights to the Indians but a grant of rights from them. There was an exclusive right of fishing reserved within certain boundaries, and the right was intended to be continuing against the United States and its grantees as well as against the State and its grantees. The Court held that the State's patents were subject to the 1859 Treaty and gave no power to respondents to exclude the Indians. The matter was remanded to the circuit court to determine an accommodation for the Indians.