No two people were more recognized for their roles in the opposition of spearfishing than Larry Peterson and Dean Crist.
Peterson founded Protect Americans' Rights and Resources, or PARR, a group that thought treaties granted unfair benefits for American Indians and caused natives and non-natives to be considered as separate-class citizens.
Crist, angered at what he saw as the slaughter of walleyes, led a splinter group that broke from PARR called Stop Treaty Abuse. The group led protests at boat landings on lakes where tribal members were spearing -- events that often became violent as protesters harassed spearfishermen, threw rocks at them and shot toward them with guns.
Peterson and Crist were arrested more than a dozen times and say they themselves were subject to threats as they tried to end spearfishing. Ultimately, they failed, but both men say they believe they were successful in showing treaties first signed in the 1830s to be unfair.
"I look back at it and it was the most negative time of my life and the most positive time of my life," Peterson said.
Peterson worked at the paper mill in his hometown of Park Falls when the issue first arose in 1983, after a federal court ruling that tribal members were not in violation of a treaty when they spearfished off of reservation land. Peterson formed PARR in 1985 to organize efforts to inform the public and politicians about what they considered the inequity of American Indian treaties nationwide.
Peterson, now retired and 71 years old, still is quickly excited when talking about those issues. Peterson said the original treaties were meant to remove the tribes from Wisconsin to west of the Mississippi River. The Chippewa tribes later refused an order to move in 1850 by President Zachary Taylor.
"These were removal treaties, with the intent the Indians would be removed (from Wisconsin)," Peterson said. "It was supposed to be temporary."
A treaty signed by Chippewa tribes in 1854 with the federal government created reservations for the American Indians in Wisconsin.
While PARR pushed to educate, some activists -- including Crist -- found the group too passive. Stop Treaty Abuse, or STA, was formed after the spearing season in 1988 and began protesting the following year.
"(PARR) was a voice that was doing nothing, accomplishing nothing," the 62-year-old Crist said this month during an interview in the Minocqua pizza parlor he now owns and operates.
STA organizers and other protesters by the hundreds staked out boat landings, where they jeered and taunted tribal members and pelted them with rocks and beer bottles. Crist even hired a company in Louisiana to brew "Treaty Beer" that sold for $11 a case to raise money for STA and awareness about treaty issues.
Crist offers no apologies for the protests, many of which he led, or the lawsuits he was part of in his attempt to stop spearing.
"I guess if I'd do it again, I'd have better legal counsel," said Crist, who estimated that he spent $500,000 raised through STA and out of his own pocket on attorney fees and court costs during a four-year legal battle.
The Lac du Flambeau tribe successfully sued Crist and STA in federal court to stop the violence during boat landing protests. Crist unsuccessfully tried to use the lawsuit to relitigate the 1983 federal court ruling, claiming that only full-blooded Indians could exercise the right to spear fish and that the tribe was previously compensated in the 1800s as part of the treaty.
Despite their lingering concerns, the spearfishing controversy in the Northwoods is all but dead. Peterson left PARR a decade ago, is retired and is beginning with a new phase of life; his wife died of cancer a year ago.
Crist continues working at his restaurant, is part of the volunteer fire department in Minocqua and said he seldom thinks about spearfishing.
Though both men were accused of being racists, Crist and Peterson say they opposed only the treaties -- the controversy was never about race. Peterson said he even considers tribal spearfishing leader Tom Maulson a friend, although they've spoken only once in the past decade. Crist has seen but not spoken with Maulson.
Crist and Peterson said anglers are avoiding the Northwoods because fewer legal-size walleyes are in lakes as a result of spearfishing. They predict the spearing controversy will erupt again as more anglers stay away and fishing-dependent businesses lose revenue.
"If (tribes) keep dangling them darn fish in front of the people, people are going to get upset again," Peterson said.