Author Tags: First Nations
The claim to ownership of approximately 22,000 sq. miles (or 58,000 sq. kilometres) in northwestern British Columbia by the Gitskan and Wet'suwet'en peoples first entered the courts in 1984, with the filing of the statement of claim. This case was brought before B.C. Supreme Court Judge Allan MacEachern in 1987, and was heard over 374 days, ending in the spring of 1990. Partially due to a ban imposed on courtroom photography, Don Monet of Hazelton attempted to capture the soul of the three-and-a-half-year-long sovereignty case with a collection of cartoons, portraits and sketches. These were combined with the notes and transcripts of Gitksan writer Skanu'u (Ardythe Wilson) for Colonialism on Trial: Indigenous Land Rights and the Gitksan Wet'suwet'en Sovereignty Case (1991). Lawyers Stuart Rush and David Paterson at first argued unsuccessfully on behalf of Ken Muldoe (also known as Delgamuukw) and the Gitskan and Wet'suwet'en. Judge MacEachern ruled that Aboriginal rights in general exist at the "pleasure of the Crown" (accepting the Judgement in R. v. St. Catherine's Milling and Lumber Company ) and are therefore extinguishable "whenever the intention of the Crown to do so is clear and plain." MacEachern soundly dismissed the evidence of academic experts. "The anthropologists add little to the important questions that must be decided in this case," he declared. But the case was re-argued in a higher court with a different outcome.
The full legal descriptions for the case are as follows:
British Columbia. Supreme Court. In the Supreme Court of British Columbia between Delgamuukw, also known as Ken Muldoe, suing on his own behalf and on behalf of all the members of the House of Delgamuukw, and others, plaintiffs, and Her Majesty the Queen in right of the province of British Columbia and the Attorney General of Canada, defendants : reasons for judgment / of the Honourable Chief Justice Allan McEachern (Smithers, B.C.: Smithers Registry, Supreme Court of B.C., 1991)
British Columbia. Supreme Court. Court of Appeal for British Columbia between Delgamuukw, also known as Earl Muldoe, suing on his own behalf and on behalf of all the members of the Houses of Delgamuukw and Haaxw (and others suing on their own behalf and on behalf of members of thirty eight Gitksan Houses and twelve Wet'suwet'en Houses as shown in schedule 1), plaintiffs, and Her Majesty the Queen in right of the province of British Columbia and the Attorney General of Canada, defendants : reasons for judgement Vancouver Registry, Supreme Court of B.C., 1993)
Skanu'u (Ardythe Wilson) & Don Monet. Colonialism on Trial: Indigenous Land Rights and the Gitksan Wet'suwet'en Sovereignty Case (Gabriola Island: New Society Publishers, 1991).
[BCBW 2005] "First Nations"