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Kootenay-area First Nation still exists according to provincial judge

Map of Colville Confederated Tribes’ traditional territory. (Credit: Colville Confederated Tribes)

In what could be a precedent-setting case, a B.C. judge has ruled a First Nation as “not extinct.”

The ruling came over an illegal hunting charge against American Richard Desautel who is a member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington.

In 2010 he was charged with hunting without a license and as a non-resident in the west Kootenays.

His lawyer, Mark Underhill says his client claimed an Aboriginal right to hunt in Sinixt traditional territory, despite the federal government claiming the Sinixt as a First Nation no longer existed.

Underhill says the judge ruled the Sinixt First Nation does exist and members of that First Nation have not extinguished their rights on their traditional territory.

The basis of the ruling stems from the Sinixt First Nation leaving their territory under duress and not of their own will.

After the ruling was announced last Monday, Underhill says the Sinixt finally got vindication.

It’s unclear what the next step is for the Sinixt First Nation, Underhill says they’re taking time to celebrate the ruling.

He does expect the ruling to be appealed because it does have significant implications for rights and title cases in the area.

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