I’ve been sitting in on the trial of Rick Desautel, the Sinixt hunter who is being tried in Nelson for hunting without a license and hunting as a non-resident. As a settler living in Sinixt territory, and as a Canadian citizen, I feel this trial is not in line with the values of our community.
Many of us recognize and acknowledge the Sinixt people’s long standing relationship with this land where we have made our homes. And we honour their ongoing presence on this land whether it is north or south of the international boundary that divides their homeland in two. We yearn for more of their presence, their stories, their knowledge about this land and their rightful presence in all negotiations concerning the future of this territory.
Expert witness Dr. Dorothy Kennedy makes it clear in her testimony that the Sinixt lived in the area from Big Bend on the Columbia River north of Revelstoke to the Kettle River on the lower Columbia, since time immemorial. Other anthropologists have stated that due to the circumstances of settlement and mining rushes and the connected diseases, resource depletion, violence and land appropriation, many of the Sinixt moved south in order to survive. Should they now be excluded from the northern 80 per cent of their homeland for this?
I do not want to see our historic “get outta here!” followed up with “and stay out!” Instead, we now have an opportunity to recognize the Sinixt who are here and have been working to overturn the extinction for almost 30 years and welcome back others to the land of their ancestors. I’d like to see us spend our tax dollars on making this happen in a respectful and participatory way instead of through expensive, long-winded trials. What if we stopped waiting for First Nations to try and reclaim their rights through the court system and just did the right thing as a community, as a society and as a nation?
The reversal of the Sinixt extinction is long overdue. We need the collective will of all justice-minded settlers in the Sinixt tum xula7xw to work with the Sinixt to set history right and make a long term commitment to structure change. I’m in. Who else?
Sinixt tum xula7xw