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00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8df50000In 1956, the last surviving member of the Sinixt tribe in Canada passed away. The Sinixt became the only tribe officially deemed “extinct” by the Canadian government. Today, Roughly 4,000 Sinixt tribal members live on the Reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in northeastern Washington state.In 2010, a Washington state man who is also a descendent of the Sinixt, crossed the 49th parallel to hunt for elk on the tribe’s traditional hunting grounds in southern British Columbia. He was charged with hunting as a non-resident and without a permit.Both a trial judge and a Provincial Supreme Court judge have acquitted him of the charges. His case has become a long-running battle over sovereign rights.

Appeal Of Tribal Sovereignty Case Gets Underway In British Columbia

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Emily Schwing / NW News Network
Rick Desautel of Inchelium, Washington, center, was accused of illegal hunting after he crossed into Canada in 2010 to hunt for elk on the traditional hunting grounds of the Sinixt tribe in Canada.

Members of the Sinixt Indian tribe reside on the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in Washington. Last spring, one of them won a landmark court case in Canada reestablishing their tribal rights there.

A two-day hearing on an appeal of the case began Wednesday. ????Last spring, Rick Desautel, a Washington state man with Sinixt roots, won a landmark case which effectively revived his tribe—seven years after he illegally hunted elk in Canada to bring attention to his heritage.

In the original case, the provincial government in Britsih Columbia argued that when members of the Sinixt tribe moved onto the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in Washington, they gave up sovereign rights in Canada. It’s the same argument the government is using in its appeal. ??

The traditional territory of the Sinixt spans a wide swath of northeast Washington and southern BC. For decades, the tribe was considered “extinct”—language used by the Canadian government after the last surviving Sinixt member in British Columbia passed away in 1956.