On This Day: LLBO vs Herbst Decision Affirms Tribal Jurisdiction over Natural Resources

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CASS LAKE- Before the Tribe’s conservation code was established, hunting, and fishing was done in the dark. Canoes and gear were stowed away, kept from the eyes of state officials who guarded the reservations natural resources from the tribe.

That time period is now nearly 50 years in the past, this year June 18th marks the 46th anniversary of the Richard Herbst vs Leech Lake Band federal district court Case. The historic case recognized the bands hunting, fishing and gathering rights in the state of MN and reaffirmed Leech Lake’s jurisdictional borders. The case which had been thrown around the 8th circuit since 1971, began as a result of both the Nelson Act and an increase in conservation officers harassing tribal members over rights that were not yet recognized.  This case went beyond hunting and fishing, with the State challenging the ability of the Leech Lake Band to function as a government and regulate our Citizens activities.

The passage of the Nelson Act in 1897 allowed the State of Minnesota to illegally claim that Congress abolished the Leech Lake Reservation through land sales, specifically the jurisdictional authority of the Leech Lake Band to regulate hunting and fishing within the Leech Lake Reservation.  It took almost 80 years to correct this action.

In 1971, the Leech Lake Band challenged the Minnesota Commissioner of Natural Resources, Robert L. Herbst in federal court on the issue of Minnesota forcing Indians to comply with Minnesota game and fish laws.

The courts ruled on June 18th, 1973 that “Plaintiff Indians have the right to hunt and fish and gather wild rice on public lands and public waters of the Leech Lake Reservation free of Minnesota game and fish laws. Defendants are enjoined from enforcing such laws.”  In addition to getting a positive ruling, these rights were identified as property rights and required Minnesota to pay Leech Lake Band for non-Indian’s privilege of hunting, fishing or trapping within the boundaries of the Reservation.  The gathering of wild rice and bait fish on Leech Lake Reservation is wholly regulated by the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

The Herbst Case was the fight to have our Treaty Rights recognized and set the stage for us to determine our own future. The Leech Lake Band jurisdictional border is important for all the civic functions and roles our government has.  The jurisdiction of the Band is important for policing, environmental regulation, wildlife management, education, construction, housing and a variety of interest.  Thanks to this ruling Leech Lake Band members can obtain hunting and fishing licenses from the Tribe’s own Department of Resource Management following our own season dates and limits.

For more information on the Herbst vs Leech Lake Band court case or licenses, please call the Department of Resource Management at (218) 335-7400.

Editing and Writing Contributions by: Ben Benoit


Leech Lake Reservation 2019-2020 Fishing Dates


  • Game Fish (May 4th,2019 to March 31st,2020) (LLBO Band Members only)
  • Game Fish (May 11th, 2019 to March 31st, 2020) (Non-Band Members opener)
  • Non-Game Fish (May 1st,2019 to March 31st, 2020)
  • Perch/PanFish Continous Season (No Limits Imposed)


  • Game Fish (December 1st, 2019 to March 31st, 2020)
  • Non-Game Fish (May 1st,2019 to March 31st, 2020)

Personal Gill Netting (LLBO BAND MEMBERS ONLY)

  • Lakes (May 11th, 2019 to March 31st, 2020)
  • Streams (June 15th, 2019 to March 31st, 2020

Commercial Gill Netting (LLBO BAND MEMBERS ONLY)

  • September 1st, 2019 to March, 31st, 2020

Additional Information:

  • Due to recent infestionation some of our waters with non-native species some additional regulations have been developed to prevent the spread to other waters.
  • Dark Houses must be removed from the ice no later than 12:01 AM on March 17th, 2020
  • No gill net shall be set in a river or stream or within three hundred feet of the inlet or outlet of any river or stream between the opening of fishing and June 15th of each season.
  • The commercial taking of non-game fish by hoop net, trap, seine, or other means shall be permitted at times, limits, and locations specified by special permit upon application to the Leech Lake DRM office in Cass Lake.
  • All requests for netting helpers permits are for personal use gill netting only and will be issued to be immediate family members of a Leech Lake Enrollee. Applicants must meet criteria and residency requirements stated on the special permit application form.
  • Special permit applications are available at the Leech Lake DRM office in Cass Lake.
  • As of April 16th,2015, Lake Winnie is CLOSED for commercial netting activities until further notice, however it will remain open for personal us netting activities within the approved season dates listed above.








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