The Sinixt First Nation is in the midst of an unprecedented Canadian court battle to win Aboriginal rights to its wildlife-rich traditional territory in B.C. by proving it is not extinct.
The case, which is financed by the U.S.-based Colville Confederated Tribes, is expected to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, given the implications of a Sinixt win for the Kootenays, the province and another First Nation — the Ktunaxa — which has overlapping claims to the same territory.
Everyone agrees that prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Sinixt were here, their lawyer said yesterday in an interview.
The question is whether the First Nation decided to move south to farm, as the Crown argues.
“What’s at stake here for First Nations is hopefully the courts affirming you don’t lose who you are simply because you move around,” said Sinixt lawyer Mark Underhill.
According to the Canadian government, there is no Sinxit First Nation and that means no Aboriginal hunting rights.
Closing arguments began Monday in a provincial courtroom in Nelson B.C.