Sinixt hunter Richard Desautel outside the Nelson courthouse in March. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

2017’s top stories No. 7: Sinixt win twice

Decisions from a court and the RDCK caught readers’ attention

The Sinixt people made the news twice this year, once with a ground-breaking court decision and again because of a surprising move by the Regional District of Central Kootenay.

In March, a provincial court judge in Nelson acquitted Sinixt hunter Richard Desautel of hunting without a licence and hunting without being a resident.

Desautel is a resident of Washington State, charged in B.C. after killing an elk near Castlegar in 2010.

Judge Lisa Mrozinsky, following a trial that lasted three weeks, found that Desautel had an aboriginal right to hunt in Sinixt traditional cross-border territory and that the B.C. hunting laws he was charged with are an infringement of that right.

Outside the courtroom, Desautel said both sides had strong cases but that “tradition and honour and the history of where we came from has to be the basis of the decision. So this is good, and I love it.”

The decision is considered to be a significant aboriginal hunting rights case.

In May, the province appealed the decision, stating that the judge was mistaken in her ruling that a resident in the U.S. can have an aboriginal right to hunt, or any other aboriginal right, in Canada. The appeal hearing was held in September and Justice Robert Sewell has not yet made a decision.

The Sinixt, then known as the Arrow Lakes Indians, were declared extinct in Canada by the federal government in 1956, and as a result the group has no standing in any land claims or treaty processes in Canada. The majority of the Sinixt people live in Washington State as part of the Colville Confederated Tribes.

In October, the board of the RDCK called on the federal government to reverse that extinction.

The directors refused to provide a letter of support to the federal government for a transfer of land in Fauquier to reserve status for the Westbank First Nation. Fauquier lies within the traditional territory of the Sinixt.

The basis for their decision was that the extinction by the federal government had been an error that needed to be reconciled.

Paul Peterson, the elected board member for the RDCK’s Area K in which Fauquier sits, said, “First Nations in B.C. have endured the greatest of atrocities. The extinction adds insult to injury. I cannot be part of that by endorsing this transfer.”

This is thought to be the first time any elected body has questioned the extinct status of the Sinixt in Canada.

With files from Eileen Delehanty Pearkes


Just Posted

Nelson evens the series

Confidence turned into cockiness, Dynamiters’ coach says

‘When you walk in this country, it will know your footsteps’

Gathering of American Sinixt in Nelson seen as ‘coming home’

Kimberley Dynamiters take game one 8-0

Coach Stuart says they cannot expect same Nelson team to show up tonight

Nelson gets $6 million for water upgrade

Funds are from the federal government’s Gas Tax Fund

Nelson city hall outlines 2018 budget

Residential taxes will increase by 3%

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

SKI TIPS: Build trust in your skis

Whitewater’s Dylan Henderson shows how to let skis catch you in a turn

She. We. They: The Women Show

Touchstones exhibit celebrates Nelson women past and present

Kimberley Dynamiters vs Nelson Leafs; a look ahead

The series begins Friday evening in Kimberley

LETTER: I trust and deeply appreciate the educators in Nelson

Column about bullying, violence was offensive

LETTER: Important public hearing ill-timed and underpublicized

City criticized for its handling of Railtown plan

COLUMN: Uplifting campaign to protect wildlife habitat

Heart-warming signals for Nelson newcomer

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

Most Read