There was a thunderous roar from Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation and Arrow Lakes Facilitator for the Tribes when Regional District of Central Kootenay board members passed a resolution not to support for the establishment of a Westbank reserve in Fauquier.
The motion came during the monthly RDCK meeting Thursday, November 16, in Nelson when the Board voted to send a letter to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada requesting the federal government suspend granting reservation lands to First Nation communities within the traditional territory of the Sinixt people, and ask the federal government to reconsider the declaration that the Sinixt people arextinct.
“This is yet another historic day for all Sinixt people, building on the landmark Desautel decision, where, for the first time since 1956, a government in Canada has formally recognized the existence of the Arrow Lakes people and our traditional territory,” Dr. Michael E. Marchand, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation said in a media release.
“This is a very important step in the reconciliation process, and we commend the courage of the Regional District for passing this resolution.”
On March 27, 2017, Justice Lisa Mrozinski found Richard Desautel not guilty of hunting for elk as a non-resident of British Columbia and without license, ruling that he was exercising a constitutionally protected right to hunt in Sinixt traditional territory in Canada. The Crown’s appeal to the B.C. Supreme Court was argued in early September in Nelson, and a decision is expected in early 2018.
“The truth prevailed over fear and division at the Regional District meeting,” Shelly Boyd, Arrow Lakes Facilitator for the Tribes said.
“As the judge confirmed in the Desautel case, the truth is that Sn̓ʕay̓ckstx people were never extinct and we have never left our traditional territory and the waters that are its lifeblood. We look forward to building cooperative relationships with First Nations and government, and to continue working with the local community to make sure that everyone is aware of the truth of our history and existence.”
The Colville Tribes have written multiple letters to the Westbank First Nation, along with the Canadian and British Columbia governments, asking to engage in consultation on the establishment of the Westbank reserve, and also attended a public meeting on October 4, 2017 to make that request in person. To date, the Colville Tribes have not received a substantive response.
“We hope that Westbank and other governments will now follow the lead of the Regional District and reach out to us to begin a dialogue,” Chairman Marchand said.
“While we are disappointed at the lack of a response to date, we remain hopeful that legal proceedings can be avoided, and a more traditional and effective approach can be followed to resolve any differences we may have.”