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.