Ohio bid to toss tribe's claim to lake rights is denied


A request from the state of Ohio to dismiss the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma's claim to fishing and hunting rights to Lake Erie was denied yesterday in U.S. District Court in Toledo.

Judge Jack Zouhary dismissed a motion filed by Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro to throw out the lawsuit the tribe filed in June, 2005, laying claim to state-owned land on North Bass Island in Lake Erie.

The Ottawa Tribe claims that a treaty it made with the federal government 200 years ago entitles it to unrestricted fishing rights in the lake for a commercial fishing operation it hopes to base on North Bass.

"This was a very important step that could allow them to begin the fishing operation that is crucial for the tribe's survival. They are anxious to get started. They are confident they will ultimately win the lawsuit,'' said William Caughey, one of the attorneys representing the tribe.

The state's motion asked for the dismissal on numerous grounds, including the tribe waited too long to stake its claim and the lawsuit was improperly hinged on treaties ratified with the federal government in 1805.

Kim Norris, a spokesman for the attorney general, said a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling supports the state's position that the tribe can't lay claim to fishing and hunting rights in the state.