tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Okanagan Territory: The Chiefs of the Syilx Okanagan Nation welcome
the May 2, 2019 decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in R. v. Desautel, recognizing
and protecting Sinixt Aboriginal hunting rights in B.C. Sinixt are inextricably linked to our broader
Syilx Okanagan Nation, sharing common language, culture, history, traditions and ancestry. As
our Syilx communities include many Sinixt people, this confirmation that Sinixt rights continue to
exist in Syilx Okanagan Territory is critically important, particularly in light of the Province of
British Columbia’s previous denial of those rights.
The case was an appeal of the BC Supreme Court’s affirmation of the BC Provincial Court’s
March 27, 2017 decision that found that Richard DeSautel, a member of the Lakes Tribe of the
Confederated Colville Tribes (CCT) and a United States citizen, has an Aboriginal right to hunt
in the traditional territory of Sinixt people in British Columbia.
The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the Province’s appeal and confirmed some key legal
• The Aboriginal perspective needs to be taken into account when assessing whether persons who are not resident or citizens of Canada can be “Aboriginal peoples of Canada”;
• There is no requirement for there to be a modern-day community in the area where harvesting activities take place for an Aboriginal right to exist – this finding reflects the fact that Indigenous peoples were displaced through the process of colonization and that rights in the Arrow Lakes area were never voluntarily surrendered or abandoned.
In commenting on the decision, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the Chiefs’ Executive
Council of the Syilx Okanagan Nation stated that: “We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has
confirmed what we have always known – that the Sinixt (in our language, the sʔalt̕ik̓ʷt) were the
original inhabitants of the Arrow Lakes region long before the Europeans arrived. We are not
The Grand Chief went on to note: “As colonization advanced and especially with the imposition
of a boundary between the US and Canada, our Sinixt people were forced to choose which side
of the border to live in. Yet we are all related and we remain related to the present day. The
ONA and CCT will continue to be united through our cultural, familial, territorial, economic and
political ties. Neither the Court’s decision nor an imaginary line at the 49th parallel can affect the
relationships of our Sinixt people and the Title and Rights that belong to us, the nsyilxcen speaking
peoples. We were pleased to participate in the appeal on behalf of Syilx Okanagan
people and our Nation. We also hold up our two elders, Richard Armstrong and Hazel Squakin,
who were able to share their knowledge of the Arrow Lakes area of our Territory at Mr.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance and its Chiefs’ Executive Council represent Syilx Okanagan
Nation members and are mandated to protect, advance and defend Syilx Okanagan Nation
collective Title and Rights. Syilx Okanagan Nation communities include thousands of members
who are Sinixt descendants and whose ancestors historically lived in the Arrow Lakes area.
For more information please contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Okanagan Nation Alliance Chair
Tel: (250) 490-5314