Story at a glance:

  • Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state are ruled successors of the Sinixt tribe.
    • The Canadian supreme court case of hunting rights started with a fine back in 2010.
    • Sinixts were told to leave Canada in the '50s and were then labelled extinct.

The Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington state, confirmed as successors to the Sinixt, have constitutionally protected Indigenous rights to hunt their traditional lands in Canada, The Guardian reported.

Four years ago, the tribe won the case that their tribe still exists after being considered considered extinct by Canada since 1955 when the group got pushed down into Washington state.


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On Friday, 4,000 members of the Colville Confederated Tribes were relieved by the Supreme Court of Canada's decision that will not only secure their hunting rights as a tribe, but may have implications for tens of thousands for other Native Americans who got pushed out of Canada and into America hundreds of years ago.

“I was so nervous before the decision. I don’t think I slept more than an hour the night before,” Rick Desautel, one of the descendants of the Sinixt tribe who has been fighting in this case for decades, said. “When the decision came through I just let out a huge sigh of relief.”

Desautel challenged the Canadian government by crossing country lines and hunted for elk without a permit in 2010, and the government of British Columbia issued him a fine. Desautel then challenged the fine, making it all the way to the Canadian supreme court.

The recognition of the treaty rights of “Aboriginal peoples of Canada" was problematic for the court to interpret. But in the end, the court found for modern-day successors of Indigenous societies that occupied Canadian territory during European contact, including communities that are now located outside Canada.

“Excluding Aboriginal peoples who moved or were forced to move, or whose territory was divided by a border, would add to the injustice of colonialism,” the court wrote on Friday.

“Today was an indescribable moment for us,” said Rodney Cawston, chairman of the Colville Confederated Tribes. Ahead of the judgment, he said, members had gathered at Kettle Falls, a historic Sinixt fishing site, for early morning prayers. “Everyone was just absolutely elated when we got the news ... It’s been a very long battle for our people. Many of our people and our ancestors have been working on it for a very long time.”

Ancestral territory in Canada is now in question amongst other tribes, especially those affected after the Canadian border was drawn and how it displaced Indigenous peoples from hunting and fishing. 

Desautel's ruling also raises questions regarding which country — the U.S. and Canada — needs to be consulted concerning resource projects.


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Published on Apr 26, 2021