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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.

British Columbia High Court Sides With Native American Tribe In Cross-Border Dispute

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Emily Schwing / NW News Network
File photo. 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.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has upheld the claims of a Native American man from Washington state that he has the right to hunt in the province.

The long-running case concerned Rick Desautel, a member of the Colville Tribes and a descendant of the Sinixt, an indigenous group which once roamed the Northwest.

In 2010, Desautel crossed the border from Washington to British Columbia and shot an elk without a permit. Desautel argued that the hunt was not illegal because it took place in the traditional hunting grounds of the Sinixt.

But the province argued that those rights ended when the Sinixt were declared extinct in Canada. The last surviving member there passed away in 1956.

The decision effectively recognizes the aboriginal rights of the tribe in British Columbia.

In his decision, British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Robert Sewell wrote that allowing Desautel and other Sinixt members to hunt in the region is “consistent with the objective of reconciliation” established in Canadian civil law.

In March, a provincial court judge sided with Desautel following a nearly year-long trial.  Sewell’s decision rejects an appeal from British Columbia’s provincial government.

The Sinixt people's traditional lands extend north from the Reservation of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville to the Arrow Lakes region in the southern half of British Columbia.