Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
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.

Canadian Court Decision Could Revive 'Extinct' Tribe With Members In Washington

Wikimedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
File photo of a Sinixt village site on the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers in southeastern British Columbia.

A provincial court in British Columbia Monday could revive Canada’s recognition of an Indian tribe and vindicate a Washington man charged with illegal hunting.

In 2010 and 2011, Rick Desautel, a descendent of the Sinixt tribe, knowingly hunted deer and elk north of the Canada-Washington border illegally. He wanted to make a point about his heritage and tribal sovereignty.

For nearly a century prior, miners and loggers forced the Sinixt from their homelands. Many of of them, including Desautel’s relatives, moved from British Columbia to the reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville in Northeastern Washington.

When the last member of the Sinixt died in Canada in 1953, the government deemed the tribe “extinct” and reclaimed their lands.

Desautel believes he still has rights to his ancestors’ traditional hunting grounds.

The Sinixt is a federally recognized tribe in the United States. According to the Colville Tribal Chairman, roughly 2500 Sinixt tribal members live in Washington.