Washington Justices Void 1916 Tribal Rights Ruling As Racist

SEATTLE (AP) – Washington state’s Supreme Court has vacated a 1916 ruling that allowed a prosecutor to bring criminal charges against a tribal fisherman, calling the decision racist.

The justices unanimously said they were compelled to correct the decision because “such past opinions can continue to perpetrate injustice by their very existence.”

Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, the state’s first Native American justice, read the decision from the bench.

The 1916 case concerned Alec Towessnute, a Yakama Nation member arrested after using a gaff hook, a traditional tribal fishing method, near Prosser, about 5 miles outside the reservation.

The court’s ruling allowed him to be prosecuted despite the tribe’s treaty on fishing rights.

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