In the mid-1800s Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest entered into treaties guaranteeing them a right to off-reservation fishing. In Washington v. United States the Supreme Court will decide whether the “fishing clause” guarantees “that the number of fish would always be sufficient to provide a ‘moderate living’ to the tribes.”
The “fishing clause” of the Stevens Treaties guaranteed “the right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations . . . in common with all citizens of the Territory.” In 2001 the United States and a number of tribes sued Washington State claiming that it violated the treaty by building culverts that prevented salmon for reproducing leading to the salmon supply significantly plummeting.