Information About United States v. Washington, Subproceeding 09-1

Unfortunately, the Makah Tribe has decided to appeal the Ninth Circuit decision in our ocean boundary case to the United States Supreme Court. The federal government first set 40-mile ocean treaty fishing boundaries for the Quileute Tribe and Quinault Nation in 1986 after reviewing evidence of where the Tribes customarily caught aquatic animals, including whales and seals. 50 C.F.R. § 301.19 (1986). Nearly three decades later, after a 23-day trial (the longest trial in the nearly 50-year history of United States v. Washington), the trial court reached substantially the same conclusion, finding that Quileute and Quinault’s usual and accustomed areas extended 40 and 30 miles offshore. Consistent with long-established law, the trial court defined unitary, non-species-specific boundaries for these areas, and found that such boundaries corresponded with how these Tribes and the United States understood the Treaty of Olympia. The Ninth Circuit properly affirmed the trial court’s “extensive factual findings” and corresponding legal conclusions that the “right of taking fish at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations” in the Treaty of Olympia includes the grounds and stations where Quileute and Quinault customarily caught whales and seals.