By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
At the heart of the impasse is a state Department of Fish and Wildlife hunting comanagement agreement that the agency signed in October and November with the Lower Elwha Klallam and Jamestown S’Klallam tribes in Clallam County and the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe in Kitsap County.
In signing the agreement, the agency determined that the three tribes possess the right under the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point to hunt in off-reservation areas of the Sol Duc, Pysht and Dickey game management units, which are Nos. 607, 603 and 602, respectively.
Said new Quileute tribal chairman Chas Woodruff in an email early Friday evening: “The state has not done the necessary due diligence required in this situation.
“We have requested and are waiting for the state to comply with anthropological evidence, which must show regular use and occupancy in treaty times (1855) to support its decision.”
The agreement covers contiguous areas that lie in Clallam County west of the Jefferson County line and are near or include the Quileute reservation, which is in the Dickey game management unit.
The disagreement surfaced in a Jan. 19 advertisement in Peninsula Daily News that was paid for by Quileute Natural Resources.
“We told the state that allowing outsiders to hunt in these GMUs would deplete the game, not only for the tribe, but for everyone,” then-Quileute Tribal Chairman Tony Foster said in the advertisement.
The tribe also predicted that “potentially hundreds of new hunters” will exacerbate problems with deer and elk herds.
In the ad, the tribe also accused Fish and Wildlife of reaching the agreement after “secret negotiations” and without notifying anyone the agreement was being hammered out.
“The department entered into the agreements without the signatory tribes providing any clear evidence that they have treaty right to hunt in the new areas,” it added.
The tribe also said the agreement should be rescinded and asked readers to contact Fish and Wildlife Director Phil Anderson to express their displeasure.
As of Thursday, Anderson had received three calls of concern he said.
The areas had been open to hunting by members of the tribes in the past, but no agreement about a treaty right to do so had been in place, he said.
That had caused uncertainty when Fish and Wildlife agents made contact with tribal hunters in the areas now covered by the pact.
“Now they have certainty and we have certainty in terms of instructing our enforcement officers in terms of applying state law and where it is preempted by a treaty right,” Aderson said.
It is “without question” that the three tribes’ Point No Point Treaty rights extend to the affected areas, Anderson said.
“We believe they provided sufficient evidence that state law is pre-empted because of a treaty right, and the Quileute disagree with that conclusion,” he added.
“There is no debate there whatsoever that it is within the scope of their treaty right to hunt because it is within the scope of their ceded area.”
The agreement, which includes tribal reporting of kill counts, will be reviewed in August.
Anderson said he expects the agreement will result in 15-25 more hunters in the three game management units.
“We believe with verification of harvest reports to us and the coordination on game management that we are in a better place than we are without that agreement.”
The ad’s assertion that the agreement would result in overkill was “maybe a little sensationalized,” Lower Elwha Klallam attorney Steve Suagee of Port Angeles said.
“That may be the single most important point, that the ad might have encouraged the public to rise up and protest the slaughter to DFW, but that’s not what this is about,” Suagee said.
“This is codifying stuff that all three Klallam tribes have done for generations.”
Anderson also said he had spoken to Quileute tribal representatives about issues surrounding the agreement and that the Quileute made the other tribes aware of its objections.
There was no public review of the agreement, but none was needed, Anderson said.
“Making a determination on where state law is preempted by treaty rights is not something that we typically have reviewed by the public,” he said.
“It’s a legal issue.”
Ceded areas are areas where tribes lived, fished, gathered and hunted before tribes relinquished them to the federal government under treaties that promised tribal members could continue to exercise traditional and cultural practices, Jamestown S’Klallam Tribal Chairman Ron Allen said Friday.
“The notion of putting this [advertisement] in the paper bewilders the S’Klallams,” he said.
“This is an issue about treaty rights.
“Rather than sit down with us, they do something silly like this.
“Quite frankly, it was disrespectful to the other tribal governments.”
The affected area traditionally is hunted by members of all four tribes, Allen said, adding that non-tribal hunters gather far more kill than do tribal members.
The tribes will document and monitor the status of deer and other hunted stock just as the Quileute do, Allen said.
“They think they have the authority to tell us where we can hunt?
“We just go, ‘really, are you gong to do that with fishing, too?’
“They are acting as if it’s their territory.”
Allen said Quileute tribal officials did not respond to Jamestown S’Klallam efforts to discuss the issue, but toward the end of the negotiations with Fish and Wildlife, Jamestown S’Klallam officials were not attempting to talk with their Quileute counterparts.
“We treated them the same way they treated us,” Allen said.
Said Anderson: “I’m hopeful that there will be dialogue between tribal policy leaders to help address this issue before the next [hunting] season gets here.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at email@example.com.