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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 Means Washington Man Is Back In Canadian Court

Emily Schwing
Emily Schwing / NW News Network
Rick Desautel, of Inchelium, Washington, was present with his wife and daughter in Provincial court in Nelson, BC, for the final judgement in a seven-year case brought against him by the Canadian government.

A Washington man with tribal roots in Canada is back in court Wednesday in British Columbia. The nearly decade-long case could set precedent for tribal sovereignty issues in Canada.

More than a year and a half ago, Rick Desautel was acquitted for hunting as a non-resident and without a license in Canada. In 2009, Desautel knowingly shot an elk illegally, because he wanted to exercise his aboriginal rights.

Desautel is American. He lives in northeastern Washington on Colville Reservation. He’s also a descendent of the Sinixt tribe.

Traditional Sinixt territory stretches from the Colville Reservation north to Revelstoke, British Columbia. The Canadian government issued an extinction declaration for the Sinixt in Canada, after the last surviving member there passed away in 1956.

The case is now at the Canadian Court of Appeals in Vancouver. The Provincial government. is concerned about Canadian border security. Following this appeal, the case could go to the Canadian Supreme Court in Ottawa.